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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 April 2006, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Criminal gangs 'out of control'
UK passport
Passport "factories" are operating under franchise, say detectives
Criminal gangs trading in people and fake ID are "out of control", senior police officers have told the BBC.

The officer leading the fight against organised immigration crime in London said people-trafficking now amounted to a 21st Century slave trade.

Det Ch Insp Bob Murrill said despite successful prosecutions, passport factories now operated under franchise.

The Met's Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur added the gangs were a criminal symptom of globalisation.

The comments will fuel the debate about the security of Britain's borders, says BBC political correspondent John Pienaar.

More and more people from those communities are being criminalised
Tarique Ghaffur
Assistant Commissioner

Mr Ghaffur said: "There's a danger of us getting into a spiral of decline... large-scale contamination of communities.

"More and more people from those communities are being criminalised."

He said increased awareness of the "impact" this type of crime had on communities was needed.

"This is an area, given the changes that are taking place in the nature of London, which is something that we should invest in."

In March this year more than 50 people were arrested in a UK-wide police operation against sex trafficking, and 14 women were rescued.

The women were aged from 15 to 39 and came from a range of eastern European countries.

In 2004 a Romanian couple were jailed for at least nine years for running a multi-million pound fake passport and credit card "factory".

Forged documents - including 1,335 fake passports and ID cards and 2,000 credit cards - were found at a house in Croydon, Surrey, during an immigration raid.

By definition, the majority of these offences go either undetected or unprosecuted
Bob Murrill
Det Ch Insp

Organised immigration crime in London is tackled through Operation Maxim - a joint effort by the Metropolitan Police, UK Immigration Service, UK Passport Service and the Crown Prosecution Service.

It was set up as the Met's response to the deaths of 58 Chinese migrants in a container lorry at Dover, in June 2000.

While it has a conviction rate of 100%, police admit they only deal with a "small percentage" of cases.

'Out of control'

Mr Murrill said: "There's a great deal more work we need to do, resources have to be poured into this for us to actually get to grips with it.

"By definition, the majority of these offences go either undetected or unprosecuted."

He said the situation was "out of control" and added that politicians, police and society needed to wake up to it.

However, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty insisted the government was "getting on top" of the problem of human trafficking.

"We have woken up. More has been done in terms of resources and prosecutions over the last couple of years than ever before," he told BBC Radio Five Live Breakfast.

"But the police are right. It is something we do need to keep on top of and it is something we need to get all aspects of society fully involved in - I do accept that point."

Drug 'franchise'

Shadow home secretary David Davis described it as "a significant problem" involving people trafficking, the sex trade and drugs.

"There's a drugs trade in which the people, the mules if you like, can't get away, can't get out of the system," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It's not like a McDonald's franchise - a McDonald's franchise you can walk away. The unfortunate illegals involved in this can't go to the police, can't go to anyone else, so two sides are oppressed in this, the people involved and the people who suffer from the trade.

"So it is an issue of addressing the size of the problem, and the government, I'm afraid, didn't do that".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Senior police officers tell BBC of their fears



SEE ALSO:
Women rescued in trafficking op
22 Mar 06 |  England
The deadly journey
05 Apr 01 |  UK News


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