Anti-slavery teams to be introduced at UK airports
Specialist anti-slavery teams are to be based inside UK airports in a bid to clamp down on human trafficking, ministers have announced.
The first team will be based at Heathrow from 1 April before the scheme is rolled out to other airports.
They will be tasked with identifying victims and disrupting criminal gangs involved in international trafficking.
The government says the scheme will ensure there is "no easy route into the UK for traffickers".
The new teams, which will be led by specially trained Border Agency officers, will also begin work at Gatwick and Manchester airports later this year.
The government has said "further ports" will be identified over the coming months.
Home Office minister Karen Bradley said Border Force officers could be the "first authority figure in the UK to have contact with a potential victim of modern slavery".
"Their role is vital in identifying and protecting victims and ensuring there is no easy route into the UK for traffickers", she said.
"The new specialist teams will build on existing skills and joint working and extend that expertise around the country."
The teams will be supported by the National Crime Agency, which will bring its child protection expertise in cases involving children.
The new system will also provide child victims with an independent specialist advocate with expertise in trafficking to act as a single point of contact.
Officers from the Border Force will receive specialist training to help identify potential victims.
The new scheme aims to ensure intelligence is shared and other bodies, such as social services, are kept informed of cases.
The announcement comes as the government aims to pass new legislation to fight slavery.
The draft Modern Slavery Bill could increase the maximum custodial sentence for human trafficking offenders from 14 years to life.