Lord Ashcroft announces the launch of Operation Zygos, Crimestoppers first fugitives’ campaign in Cyprus. Its objective is simple: to locate and apprehend nine suspected criminals who are thought to be in hiding in Cyprus.
The campaign is being launched with a hard-hitting video, where viewers experience the harrowing story of one young victim as she is thrust into a world completely different from the one she and many other trafficked individuals, are promised. Viewers are presented with clickable choices throughout the video as to whether they decide to help her by passing on information anonymously to Crimestoppers.
Human trafficking is a complex and hidden crime, and therefore the true scale of it, both within the UK and globally, is difficult to determine. It’s one of the most profitable crimes worldwide, second only to drugs, with an annual trade value of around $32 billion. It is estimated there are nearly 21 million victims of forced labour, including forced sexual exploitation, trapped in jobs into which they were coerced or deceived and they cannot leave.*
Working alongside the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) the campaign, also supported by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), is being launched to raise awareness of human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour and domestic servitude, and encourages the public to pass on any information they might have about those committing this serious crime.
Results of a recent poll indicates that only a quarter of the UK public see human trafficking as a widespread problem, with only two per cent of people feeling ‘very able’ to identify the crime.
The signs of forced labour exploitation are not always clear or easy to identify, which is supported up by the poll that reveals only a third of people would be able to spot the signs. However, over 90 per cent of people said they would pass on information about the crime, should they know what to look for.**
Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC, said: “Human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour is a crime that the public find difficult to identify, which makes it incredibly challenging for the authorities to clamp down on those who are committing these serious offences.
“This is why, for the first time, Crimestoppers and UKHTC is launching this campaign to help you ‘read the signs’ and encourage you to pass on information you might have to the charity, anonymously.
“Help us mark our 25th anniversary year by telling us what you know and help bring these criminals to justice.”
Director of Operations for Crimestoppers, Roger Critchell, said: “We are serious about tackling this crime as it is not one that is perceived as a problem by some.
“People trafficked for forced labour are often sold a fairy tale life, when the reality is they are thrown into horrendous conditions and are forced to work in circumstances out of their control.
“As a crime-fighting charity, we have a responsibility to stop this.”
Liam Vernon, Deputy Head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, said: “Human trafficking is an appalling crime that has devastating effects on its victims who are often the most vulnerable people in our society. Since 2009, over 1,000 men, women and children have been referred to the centre as potential victims of trafficking for labour exploitation.
“The victims we know about were being forced to work in private houses as well as the hospitality, farming, manufacturing and construction industries. In many cases the traffickers used verbal threats or violence to achieve compliance.
“Investigating this type of exploitation is a challenge to us all as victims are often unseen by society. There could be many more out there which is why, together with Crimestoppers and the police, the UKHTC wants to raise awareness and help the public understand the signs to look out for.
“I implore anybody with information than can lead to the identification and rescue of a victim or the arrest of a trafficker to share this with Crimestoppers.”
ACPO lead on migration and associated matters, Assistant Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney, said: “Human trafficking is a hidden crime which affects many areas of our society. Members of the public may not realise that they will see victims of labour exploitation, and those controlling them, in a number of different environments while going about their daily business.
“Intelligence in this area is difficult to gather, but we have had success in bringing prosecutions against those who exploit. The victims of forced labour are often the most vulnerable in our society who are preyed on by criminal gangs, creating financial gain from human servitude and suffering.
“The police rely on the public to provide information which can assist us in rescuing these victims and prosecuting the offenders. ACPO is pleased to have this opportunity to work with Crimestoppers to spread awareness amongst the public and tackle this serious and organised crime.”
If you have any information surrounding human trafficking for the purposes of forced labour or domestic servitude please contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use our secure online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
To spread the word through social media, please use the hashtag #Readthesigns.