Romanian cops to work with anti-slavery police in Manchester

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Media captionIana Matei, who runs a Romanian shelter for human trafficking victims, said children as young as nine are being lured into the sex industry

Police officers from Romania are set to work alongside Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to help tackle slavery.

The force said most victims trafficked into the area were from eastern Europe.

Romanian children as young as nine are being lured into the sex industry by traffickers with the hope of earning lots of money.

The Romanian officers are expected to join GMP by the end of this year to help break the language barrier and "reassure" victims.

Det Ch Supt Russ Jackson, head of GMP's modern slavery unit, said: "The idea is that, when we go on things like harm reduction visits to brothels or car washes, we have Romanian police officers that work with us, work hand in glove.

"We've found that's really effective in understanding the language but also the cultural differences, and it reassures victims and allows us to get to the bottom of what's going on - whether good or bad - very, very quickly."

'Needs improvement'

Responding to criticism that Romania had not done enough to combat trafficking, Adrian Petrescu, director of the country's National Anti-Trafficking Agency, said: "In 2001, when we had the anti-trafficking law issued, we had one person convicted of trafficking. Now we have an average of 300 people finally convicted of trafficking.

He added: "We have a system in place that is comparable to any system around the world, sometimes better. It can be improved but what is important is that it is working."

'Trafficking ambition'

Image caption Iana Matei said boys, as well as girls, were being trafficked for the sex industry across Europe

The manager of a Romanian shelter for human trafficking victims said girls were being lured to the UK by gangs promising them work as strip dancers.

Iana Matei said: "Mainly the girls come from the former orphanages... They're easily recruited because they don't have anyone. Some of them come from dysfunctional families and are exploited by their own family."

Following research interviews in one of the country's deprived communities, she said her charity Reaching Out Romania found: "All the boys, beginning with eight years of age, in that community said that they wanted to be traffickers when they grow up.

"All the girls in that community said they wanted to be the trafficker's mistress. We were shocked and asked why do you want to be - this is illegal, this is a crime - and they were laughing and said: 'No, big money, no risk'."

She added: "The story [told by traffickers] is, if you come, you'll earn a lot of money - no one touches you, you don't have to have sex, you just strip, dance and make a lot of money.

"But then, as soon as they are there, then the story changes and they are forced [into prostitution] and threatened and then they will do it. "

Victims at the shelter ranged from the ages of 12 to 18, she said, and included one who was sold at the age of nine.

The Romanian collaboration with GMP follows similar work with police in London and the east Midlands.

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