Last updated: 07.05.15

Trafficking of human beings - Pete Nelson

Pete Nelson works for Forced Intelligence at West Yorkshire Police in the fight against human trafficking and foreign organised crime and is the longest serving professional in this field.

Pete is working alongside Virtual College in the development of a human trafficking online training course and attended the Safeguarding Children Advisory Panel in June 2015 to give a presentation on the trafficking of human beings.

Below is a summary of his presentation.

Trafficking of human beings
Guest Speaker - Pete Nelson, Forced Intelligence, West Yorkshire Police

Pete began by dedicating his talk to a 16 year old Slovakian girl who went to an underage disco in 2003 and never returned home. She was reported missing by her guardian, her grandmother.

Three months after she disappeared, her grandmother received a hurried phone call from her granddaughter who had managed to briefly use her captor?s phone to explain that she had been kidnapped by two men and a woman and taken to England.

The girl explained that every night she was taken by force to a brothel where up to 12 men would rape her. She begged her grandmother for help and gave a partly unintelligible address in London.

Interpol were contacted by Slovakian authorities. They contacted the Metropolitan Police and enquires began in order to discover the location and rescue the girl.

Two months later authorities were able to discover the exact address after the phone records were downloaded. The police went to an address where it was confirmed that two men, a woman and a distressed young girl had been living. But they had left the properly just four hours earlier.

Unfortunately, the girl has never been found.

Since 2003 subsequent procedures show the value and importance of demanding phone records be made available as early as possible.

Increased levels of human trafficking

Pete attributes the rise in transnational organised crime to a lack of education, abundance of poverty and greed and a shift in rural to urban living.

Since 2005 urban landscapes have absorbed two thirds of the rural population and approximately five years ago this led to a significant shift in the makeup of the world?s population as the number of humans living in cities outnumbered those living in the countryside.

High poverty levels in urban landscapes are the perfect breeding ground for organised criminal gangs whose crimes include firearms, drugs, cyber-crime and human trafficking.

Definitions of human trafficking

The Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children that was adapted by the United National General Assembly in 2000 defines human trafficking as having three critical components:

  • An Act (e.g. recruitment, transportation or transfer of a person)
  • A Means (e.g. threat or coercion)
  • A Purpose (e.g. the type of exploitation that takes place)

Human trafficking is broadly split into the following areas:

  • Sex trafficking
  • Forced labour
  • Domestic servitude
  • Organ harvesting
  • Any other forms of trafficking/slavery

Examples of trafficking cases:

Forced Labour

After a safeguarding meeting in 2012, where a women refused to make a complaint against her husband who regularly beat and raped her, research indicated that the husband was part of a large Mafia family suspected of trafficking human beings.

As a result, an investigation began in the north of England looking into the Slovak Roma Mafia. This organised crime gang (OCG) was made up of male members who were steroid injected musclemen who would often physically intimidate their victims.

This OCG trafficked two types of victims:

  • Vulnerable single males, non Roma Slovak nationals used for slave labour and nicknamed ?white horses?
  • Large Roma families, trafficked for benefit fraud, particularly child benefits

The investigation ended with the largest victim recovery operation of its kind in the UK and included a multi-agency partnership of ten different organisations including the Department of Work and Pensions, Anti-Trafficking Charities, the NHS and Local Education Board. A total of 69 victims were recovered and all were successfully referred to a victim protection scheme.

Domestic Servitude

There has been a recent increase in Eastern European Roma females being sold to OCG?s for sometimes up to ?10,000 who are then forced to marry illegal immigrants.

The women are then kept by the illegal immigrants and trafficked for domestic servitude in daylight hours then sex trafficked at night.

Sex Trafficking

There are three main areas where sex trafficking takes place:

  • On street prostitution: Pockets of this are seen in most UK towns and cities, but sex trafficking tends to be less visible
  • Residential brothels: These are usually formed in terrace, semi or detached houses
  • Massage parlours: The most popular area of sex trafficking occurs in massage parlours

Operating out of such an establishment was an Albanian Mafia in Northern England who, in 2008, were found to be the largest known Mafia of its type in Europe with links to 13 different countries.

The Mafia were suspected of importing and distributing large amounts of heroin and cocaine into the UK and trafficking hundreds of females into the UK sex trade. Several leaders of the OCG have been arrested and deported who were convicted in their absence in Albania for murder, rape and child trafficking.

Child Sexual Exploitation

In the winter of 2014 a public house was suspected of hosting grooming sex parties run by Roma males involving approximately 20 young Eastern European girls.

A multi-agency operation resulted in a raid, but the girls? arrival was delayed by fog and the taxis carrying them arrived after police had entered the establishment allowing them to escape.

In the spring of 2015, however, a neighbouring town suspected a similar problem and Facebook images revealed the same potential victims of trafficking as the previous investigation. It was discovered that the victims, some aged 14/15 were given Crystal Meth to increase their libido prior to sex parties with older males averaging 50 years old.

Many sex trafficking OCG members have previous rape convictions of very young girls abroad and display a total lack of respect for females of all ages.

Pete believes that this hatred, known as misogyny, should be re-named to reflect its true nature and give it a place alongside equivalent crimes against humanity such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and forced migration.

Lack of human trafficking convictions

There are many examples of traffickers being prosecuted under different criteria, just as sex trafficking has historically been prosecuted under rape laws and forced labour under fraud.

A reason given for this is that authorities such as the police and Crown Prosecution Service are more comfortable prosecuting criminals in tried and tested areas of the law rather than human trafficking.

It is hoped, however, that the Modern Slavery Act 2015 will help improve this situation.

A multi-agency approach

Pete finished by stating that for too long we have blamed ignorance and too many victims have lost their lives or remain untraced.

He expressed his optimism for the future and explained the need to work together and the importance of new laws and a multi-agency approach in demanding proper regulation and investigation.

"You may choose to look the other way but once you have been told, you can never again say you did not know" 1791, William Wilberforce