Five children suspected victims of human trafficking in Norfolk
- Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Five children were suspected of being victims of human trafficking last year in Norfolk as police have worked to uncover the 'hidden' crime of modern day slavery.
In three years the number of referrals from Norfolk Police to the National Crime Agency of potential human trafficking victims has risen by almost 400pc.
Of the 26 referrals from Norfolk Police in 2017, five were children. Four boys were referred for suspected labour exploitation, and one girl for sexual exploitation.
Of the 19 adults, seven were from Romania, and six of those were referred for labour exploitation.
Five were from Latvia, all referred for suspected labour exploitation.
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Five of the 26 were from the United Kingdom, including three of the five children.
Others countries of origin included Bulgaria, Albania, China, Czech Republic, Greece, Lithuania, Norway, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
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It compares to 16 referrals made in 2016 from Norfolk Police, with just one minor among them.
Nine came from Romania and four from Bulgaria.
In 2015 just 10 referrals were made, with three suspected victims from Poland, three from Vietnam and two from Slovakia.
In 2014 seven adults were referred.
A spokesman for Norfolk Police said: 'The increase does not necessarily mean more crime is happening, rather there is a greater consistency when recording crime and victims recognising what constitutes an offence and feeling more able to come forward.
'Modern day slavery is a reality and happens everywhere, even in rural Norfolk. It's an abuse of human rights and affects society's most vulnerable men, women and children.
'The 'Multi-agency Safeguarding Team (MAST)' was created in 2016 within the 'Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)' in order to tackle the issue in the county with two dedicated Community Engagement Officers. The team work very closely with partners, external organisations and the public to identify and support victims; however it is a crime, which is often hidden from view.'
They added training sessions have been carried out so officers, staff and partner agencies can 'recognise the signs and report it'.