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The evils of human trafficking

The death of the man in a container found at Tilbury on Saturday was a shocking incident. One person died, and many others might very easily have done so.  A number of people are continuing to receive medical care.

I pay tribute to the ambulance staff, the police and the hospitals who responded most professionally to an uncertain and distressing situation.

I was in close touch with the Chief Constable during the day and met the officer in charge during the afternoon for a full briefing. It should be reassuring to all of us in Essex that our emergency services were able to respond in the way they did even though it was a busy Saturday during the summer holidays when many resources were also deployed to ensure the safety of everyone attending the V Festival in Chelmsford.

Whilst we do not know the full details of this incident yet, it is likely that the people in the container were migrants attempting to illegally enter this country.  I know that the Border Force, Essex Police, local police at Tilbury Docks and Thurrock council are working closely to prevent people illegally entering the UK, and to keep our borders secure.

Equally, this incident should highlight for us the evil of the abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people of all sorts and in many different circumstances.  The police and partner agencies are continuing to investigate the circumstances of those found in that container.  But we can be sure that almost all cases of human trafficking involve exploitation by callous organised criminal gangs.

Much of the great harm caused by human traffickers is unseen by most of us; and it too easy not to care. Earlier this year I wrote about hidden harm here and here. I am determined that human trafficking and other hidden harms, those crimes that seemingly don’t impact on most of us ever, but where the lives of the vulnerable are made wretched and frequently ruined, are brought in to the open. It matters because of those ruined lives; and because evil criminals and violent perpetrators are profiting from that harm.

Much of the work to investigate human trafficking gangs will be led by the Border Force and the National Crime Agency.  I will ensure Essex Police are strong partners in that work as it affects all parts of our county. They have shown this weekend the skills and effectiveness to respond when called to do so.

Some of that hidden harm, however,  is happening on a smaller scale, but no less traumatically for those affected, across Essex with victims working in brothels, in nail bars, on cannabis farms and being exploited for forced labour. Other hidden harm, like Domestic Abuse, so called Honour Based Violence, organised child sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls of many sorts including FGM, happens within our homes.

Doing all we can to address these hidden harms, whether international, national or local in scale, must and will remain a priority for Essex Police and for me, as Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex.

In relation to the Tilbury incident, a casualty bureau has been set up for anybody who is concerned about a friend or relative to call. People living in the UK should call 0800 0560944 and people outside of the UK can call 0207 1580010.

If you are a victim of modern slavery or know someone who is, support can be found at:

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex


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PFCC for Essex, Kelvedon Park, London Road, Rivenhall, Witham, Essex, CM8 3HB
01245 291600

If your enquiry relates to operational policing or a crime please contact Essex Police

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