Everyone Has Part to Play If Nightmare of Modern Slavery in Wales Is to End; PUBLIC URGED TO LOOK OUT FOR SUSPICIOUS BEHAVIOUR

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Byline: CLARE HUTCHINSON clare.hutchinson@walesonline.co.uk

MODERN-DAY slavery is not a hidden crime and every person has a "part to play" in rescuing victims from their misery, Wales' new anti-human trafficking co-ordinator has claimed.

Stephen Chapman said Wales is now leading the way when it comes to tackling the illegal trade of human trafficking and other nations are watching its work "with interest".

Speaking to the Western Mail, the former deputy director at the UK Border Agency said the notion that trafficking is "hidden" is a myth. Instead, "people have just not been looking for it," he said.

His words came as he unveiled plans to set up a "leadership group" for trafficking in Wales, with representatives from health boards, local authorities, the police and criminal justice system, immigration agencies and charities. This group will be supported by four regional "delivery groups" in Gwent, North Wales, South Wales and West Wales, which will raise awareness of trafficking and ultimately ensure all frontline professionals receive training in recognising its victims and perpetrators.

Mr Chapman, who lives in Newport with his Welsh wife and children and most recently helped organise security for the Olympic Games, said his new role was as a "catalyst" for change.

"People want to work as a team, they don't want to work in isolation," he said.

"I'm very pleased to report back that there is a lot of good work being carried out, but sometimes some organisations are working in isolation and what I want to do is create a round-table in which everyone is aware of what everyone else is doing.

"It is about building trust and building confidence to operate and about putting that hand out to organisations who we haven't worked with before."

Among those are religious organisations, which Mr Chapman said have a "vital role to play" in recognising and protecting victims.

"If you are coming from a different country where the officials and police are corrupt you will find your church," he said.

"What we are doing is very new here. I sit on the human trafficking strategic board and people from other countries in the UK are very envious of the fact that this role has been created and the other three nations are looking at this role with interest."

But despite working for and representing the Welsh Government, he said his role was more one of a "critical friend" and a conduit to "take messages back".

As part of that work, he recently attended a "summit" in North Wales in response to local concerns about traffickers using Holyhead to bring their victims into Britain.

But Mr Chapman warned against confusing traffickers with people smugglers, saying that because trafficking victims and perpetrators often enter the country legally it is harder for border staff to recognise them. …