On 3 October 2006 we opened the UK Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield. This dedicated centre will bring together intelligence gathering, training, research and law enforcement under one roof.
The centre will be staffed by police as well as officers from the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate and the Crown Prosecution Service. It will co-ordinate the work of police forces around the country trying to prevent sex and other forms of forced labourers, including children, from working in the UK.
We are also currently developing proposals for a UK Action Plan on Human Trafficking. The Action Plan will concentrate in three key areas: prevention; investigation, law enforcement and prosecutions; and protection and assistance to victims. We aim to publish the Action Plan early next year.
The police recently led other agencies in Operation Pentameter. It aimed to tackle trafficking for sexual exploitation by raising awareness of the issue followed by a series of enforcement campaigns across the country. The operation managed to rescue 84 women many of them in London.
Operation MAXIM is the Metropolitan Police Service led initiative working in partnership with the United Kingdom Immigration Service (UKIS) and UK Passport Service (UKPS) to target organised immigration crime in London with the shared objective to significantly disrupt, prevent and reduce serious criminality connected to illegal immigration.
The majority of our knowledge regarding the extent of human trafficking in the UK relates to trafficking for sexual exploitation. It remains difficult to make an accurate assessment of the extent of the problem although intelligence suggests there has been an increase in the trafficking problem over the last two or three years. The emerging findings from a Home Office research paper due to be published later this year suggests that at any one time in 2003 there were in the region of 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK. An analysis of the information obtained from Operation Pentameter will assist in further developing our understanding of the scale of the problem in this area.
We do not have sufficient evidence regarding trafficking for purposes other than sexual exploitation (e.g. forced labour or child trafficking) to enable us to make a full assessment of whether these pose a significant problem for the UK. We are actively looking at ways in which our knowledge of these areas can be improved and the Home Office is currently working in partnership with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) on a specific intelligence gathering project to improve our knowledge of the scope of child trafficking into and within the UK. CEOP is expected to report its findings later in the year.