Lead­ing fight on slav­ery

Caernarfon Herald - - NEWS -

THE UK’s first po­lice sup­port of­fi­cer ded­i­cated to help­ing vic­tims of mod­ern slav­ery has just started work as part of a ma­jor cam­paign to tackle the cal­lous crime in North Wales.

The ap­point­ment of for­mer Bri­tish Red Cross worker Matthew Ha­zle­wood was made pos­si­ble thanks to special fund­ing from the re­gion’s po­lice and crime com­mis­sioner, Ar­fon Jones.

Com­bat­ing mod­ern slav­ery is a key pri­or­ity in the com­mis­sioner’s Po­lice and Crime plan, his blueprint for polic­ing North Wales.

Fa­ther-of-three Mr Ha­zle­wood is part of North Wales Po­lice’s mod­ern slav­ery unit and works with the Vic­tim Help Cen­tre, a one-stop shop for vic­tims of all crime. The cen­tre cov­ers the whole of North Wales and is at di­vi­sional po­lice HQ in St As­aph.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Jones, mod­ern day slavers are traf­fick­ing peo­ple through North Wales on a daily ba­sis.

Crim­i­nals from Ire­land are bring­ing peo­ple into North Wales through Holy­head, bound for back-break­ing work in the re­gion or fur­ther afield.

He said: “Mod­ern slav­ery and hu­man traf­fick­ing are ap­palling and cal­lous crimes which reach right into our so­ci­ety here in North Wales, which is why I have made it one of my pri­or­i­ties in my Po­lice and Crime Plan.

“It is grow­ing is­sue and the more re­sources we are able to put in, the more we are un­cov­er­ing. Holy­head Port is a real chal­lenge and we know peo­ple smug­gling and labour ex­ploi- tation are is­sues we need to ur­gently tackle and ad­dress.

“There are so many ar­eas that are a con­cern, whether it’s the fish­ing or cock­ling in­dus­tries, car washes, agri­cul­ture or else­where. It’s a grow­ing prob­lem that many po­lice forces are hav­ing to ad­dress.”

He added: “In North Wales we are ac­tu­ally ahead of the game when it comes to the gath­er­ing of in­tel­li­gence and how we proac­tively act upon that in­tel­li­gence. We can be rightly proud of what we have al­ready achieved.

“I’m de­lighted to wel­come Matthew Ha­zle­wood to the role and I’m pleased it’s a po­si­tion I am able to fund. We have to re­mem­ber that sur­vivors of mod­ern day slav­ery and hu­man traf­fick­ing will present a longterm prob­lem if only due to lan­guage and cul­tural dif­fer­ences. These are is­sues we will need to sen­si­tively over­come.”

Matthew Ha­zle­wood has al­ways been in­ter­ested in help­ing vic­tims of hu­man traf­fick­ing. Af­ter leav­ing Nat­u­ral Re­sources Wales in 2015, he vol­un­teered in Cyprus, help­ing asy­lum seek­ers, refugees and vic­tims of hu­man traf­fick­ing.

He said: “I re­turned to North Wales and be­gan vol­un­teer­ing with the Bri­tish Red Cross, work­ing with asy­lum seek­ers and refugees in Wrex­ham. A team-leader role came up and I ac­cepted the job of help­ing Syr­ian refugees to re­set­tle in NE Wales.”

“I ap­plied for the role of mod­ern day slav­ery case worker here at the North Wales Vic­tim Sup­port Cen­tre at St As­aph as it’s an is­sue and a prob­lem that is very im­por­tant.

“I be­lieve I can bring the en­ergy and ex­per­tise re­quired to sup­port vic­tims and the work of the Vic­tim Sup­port Cen­tre.

“My role is to sup­port peo­ple caught up in mod­ern slav­ery and also to raise aware­ness with the third sec­tor about the chang­ing face of ex­ploita­tion in North Wales.

“Just how many vic­tims there are we are un­sure about but it is prob­a­bly in the tens of thou­sands.

“Vic­tims can be male, fe­male or chil­dren and from all na­tion­al­i­ties and back­grounds... but all are ul­ti­mately vul­ner­a­ble and need of help.” ● North Wales Po­lice has fur­ther in­for­ma­tion on its mod­ern slav­ery web­site at www.north-wales.po­lice. uk/ ad­vice- and-sup­port/ stay-safe/ mod­ern-slav­ery.aspx. ● If you sus­pect slav­ery is hap­pen­ing near you, re­port it on 101, anony­mously, via Crimestop­pers on 0800 555 111, call the Mod­ern Slav­ery Helpline on 0800 012 1700 or BAWSO on 08007318147. ● The vic­tim help ser­vice is avail­able 8am-8pm, Mon­day to Fri­day, 9am5pm on Satur­days. Call free on 0300 3030159, email north­wales.help cen­tre@vic­tim­sup­port.org.uk, or visit www. vic­timhelp­cen­trenorth­wales. org.uk

PCC Ar­fon Jones with Wales’ first mod­ern slav­ery sup­port of­fi­cer Matthew Ha­zle­wood at the Vic­tim Help Cen­tre

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