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Rediff.com  » News » UK boosts fight against human traffickers

UK boosts fight against human traffickers

Last updated on: November 14, 2003 16:53 IST

The British government has tripled to £60 million the funding for law enforcement work to disrupt human traffickers.

The funding, over three years, will bolster the successful multi-agency Reflex taskforce, which in the last six months has helped prosecute 16 facilitators and disrupt 20 criminal gangs in the UK.

It will establish a new Reflex financial crime unit to seize the profits made by criminal immigration networks under Proceeds of Crime legislation, expand the UK's network of immigration officers in source countries and support further overseas project work.

Britain also announced on Thursday plans to strengthen the law so that those who traffic people for forced labour will face up to 14 years in jail.

Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes said, "The increased funding we are announcing today will provide a major boost to the police, immigration service and other agencies working closely together under Reflex to tackle the traffickers. The hard work of those on the ground has put 16 major facilitators operating in the UK behind bars in the last six months alone.

"Organised immigration really matters. It abuses and exploits children as well as adults. It is big business, it affects communities around the UK, and the criminals trading in human beings are often also trading in guns, drugs and prostitution. That's why the government is determined to do all we can to tackle it.

"Reflex is also developing further joint working between police and the Immigration Service along the lines of the Metropolitan Police's Operation Maxim. Work is underway with South Yorkshire, Humberside and West Yorkshire forces. I want to see this approach extended throughout the country.

"The new financial crime unit will help to ensure Reflex agencies can make the most of new Proceeds of Crime legislation to seize the criminals' assets, making sure they do not profit from their crimes.

"I want to ensure that police and immigration officers have the powers they need to bring organised immigration crime bosses to justice. That is why we are introducing a new offence to ensure that traffickers who exploit others will be prosecuted."

Reflex was set up in May 2000 and brings together the combined expertise and resources of the UK's National Crime Squad, Immigration Service, the Police Service, National Criminal Intelligence Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and other government departments and agencies.

It is focussed on combating immigration crime at source, in transit and in the UK though intelligence-led enforcement action and overseas cooperation.

Under Reflex successful partnerships have or are being established with Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Bulgaria.

Shyam Bhatia in London