13/11/2003

Funding boost for fight against people traffickers

The fight against organised immigration crime was boosted today, as the government announced a trebling of funding – to £60 million – for law enforcement work to disrupt people traffickers and seize their profits.

The funding, over three years, will bolster the successful multi-agency Reflex taskforce which in the last six months alone has resulted in the prosecution of 16 facilitators and the disruption of 20 criminal gangs in the UK.

It will establish a new Reflex financial crime unit to seize the profits made by criminal immigration networks under Proceeds of Crime legislation, expand the UK's network of immigration officers in source countries and support further overseas project work.

The government also announced today plans to strengthen the law so that those who traffic people for forced labour will face up to 14 years in jail.

Home Office Minister, Beverley Hughes, said: "Organised immigration really matters. It abuses and exploits children as well as adults. It is big business, it affects communities around the UK, and the criminals trading in human beings are often also trading in guns, drugs and prostitution. That's why the Government is determined to do all we can to tackle it.

"The new financial crime unit will help to ensure Reflex agencies can make the most of new Proceeds of Crime legislation to seize the criminals' assets, making sure they do not profit from their crimes."

Reflex was set up in May 2000 and brings together the combined expertise and resources of the National Crime Squad (NSC), Immigration Service, the Police Service, National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), the Crown Prosecution Service and other government departments and agencies.

It is focussed on combating immigration crime at source, in transit and in the UK though intelligence-led enforcement action and overseas co-operation. Under Reflex successful partnerships have or are being established with Romania, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Bulgaria.

(gmcg)

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