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New powers for law enforcement to combat slavery and labour exploitation

3 July 2017

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) has been strengthened by new police-style powers to tackle modern slavery and labour exploitation.

The new powers allow GLAA officers to carry out arrests rather than refer offenders on to police forces. Since the expansion two months ago, they have arrested over 25 people on suspicion of exploiting workers, safeguarded 76 potential victims of slavery, and recovered tens of thousands of pounds in confiscated wages.

The Government has invested an additional £2 million to extend the remit of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), which has been renamed the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). Its new mission is to prevent, detect and investigate worker exploitation across the entire economy.

GLAA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent said: “Modern slavery is abhorrent; it is described by the Prime Minister as ‘the greatest human rights issue of our time’. Much of it is controlled by organised crime gangs who have links to drug smuggling, and gun violence.

“But those who profit and perpetrate slavery and exploitation should now be looking over their shoulders because the creation of the GLAA is a significant step in our desire to see it eradicated.”

Estimates put the number of slaves in the UK between 10,000-13,000 but the GLAA believes it could be even higher. Slavery and labour exploitation have infiltrated legitimate supply chains from retail, construction, care homes and the hotel and hospitality industry.

Sarah Newton, Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, said:  “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys lives.

“We have taken world leading action to protect victims and deal with perpetrators, and extended the reach of the GLAA to enable them to do even more.

“I am pleased to see this important agency putting these new powers to good effect and am confident that officers will continue to stamp out the unscrupulous criminals who exploit the most vulnerable.”

Since the beginning of May, the GLAA’s new powers have been put to good use across the country with multiple joint operations to clamp down on slavers and ruthless employers.

This included an operation conducted with South Yorkshire Police, the National Crime Agency (NCA), and HMRC last month (19 June) in which warrants were executed at a number of addresses and four men arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and money laundering offences.

Over the following days more than 100 addresses were then visited to identify potential victims of exploitation.

The GLAA will be collaborating closely alongside the police, NCA, Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, HMRC, the Department of Work and Pensions and others. GLAA analysts are already working within the Joint Slavery Trafficking Analysis Centre – the elite intelligence gathering unit set up this year to tackle human trafficking.

Mr. Broadbent added: “Our approach, in terms of prevention, enforcement and support for those who are victims, shows we are now leading the way as a country in tackling this despicable practice.

“I am confident that with our partners, the GLAA will have a major impact on disrupting and dismantling modern slavery networks that have established themselves within the UK and tackling poor and illegal practices that see thousands of workers exploited by employers every year.”

Sir David Metcalf, Director of Labour Market Enforcement said: “It is encouraging to see the GLAA make effective use of the new police-style powers to clamp down on the more serious forms of labour market exploitation, including modern slavery.

“The enforcement operations conducted by GLAA officers alongside the police send out a strong message to rogue employers as we continue to support and protect our most vulnerable workers.”

Kevin Hyland, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner said: “As criminals adapt and increase their operations, we need to do the same. In order to protect the thousands of modern slavery victims in the UK, we must remain one step ahead. By expanding the remit and increasing the powers of the GLAA, the UK is doing exactly that, taking a significant step forward in creating a place where this crime does not pay.

“This important change will see more criminal networks dismantled, more perpetrators behind bars and more victims rescued. It is my hope that ultimately people will be provided with safe, ethical and decent jobs so that this serious crime is no longer a viable ‘business model’ for exploitative criminals.”

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