A task force to help victims of human trafficking will meet for the first time in Leeds today.
Home Office officials, West Yorkshire Police, representatives from the NHS and local safeguarding teams will discuss how to tackle the scourge of trafficking in West Yorkshire.
The West Yorkshire Anti Trafficking Network was set up by charity Hope for Justice in conjunction with West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson earlier this year.
The YEP recently revealed a new task force is being set up to crack down on the scourge of human trafficking in Leeds.
Police in West Yorkshire responded to more human trafficking cases than anywhere else outside London in the first three months of 2014.
But officials have warned it is hard to know the true scale of human trafficking.
The network will bring together statutory agencies in a bid to create a co-ordinated approach to help victims of trafficking.
Mr Burns-Williamson said: “The establishment of the network and this meeting is the first step in strengthening and building on our comprehensive network of partners who can work closely together to ensure this horrific crime and practice is detected and stamped out.
“I have also set aside at least £1m for West Yorkshire Police to establish a specialist resource focused on tackling trafficking gangs.
“The network will ensure we are tackling this significant emerging threat together, in a joined up way, by raising awareness, ensuring perpetrators have no place to hide and victims know they have support in place to rebuild their lives. This first meeting is the first step towards achieving that.”
New figures reveal the number of human trafficking victims identified in the UK has more than doubled since 2010, according to a United Nations report.
Among victims identified in the UK in 2013 were 135 children, compared to 130 girls and boys identified the previous year and 80 in 2010.
Allan Doherty, director of operations at Hope for Justice, added: “Human trafficking is perhaps one of the hardest crimes to recognise and to deal with.
“Many frontline professionals, as well as the public, struggle to understand what the crime is and to identify victims.
“Victims themselves can sometimes not realise they are being tricked and exploited and can be controlled by manipulative traffickers who see them as nothing more than modern day slaves.
“The Network will work to bring together the many organisations who may come into contact with victims of human trafficking.”