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Restructure of human traffic team

11 December 09 19:00 GMT

The Metropolitan Police has re-organised the way it investigates people smuggling.

The unit, set up in 2007, had funding from the Home office for three years.

Senior officers said detectives responsible for clubs and vice inquiries will now tackle trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Charities such as the NSPCC and Amnesty International have said disbanding the team would be seriously detrimental to the fight against trafficking.

The clubs and vice team will be moved into the force's specialist crime wing, where they can work alongside organised crime specialists.

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The force said the change will also be more efficient, improve leadership and make police more accountable to other groups and victims.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the changes will take effect from 1 April next year.

He said: "With Home Office funding ending for the human trafficking team the Met has reviewed our response to human trafficking and immigration crime.

"This has resulted in a re-organisation to ensure that we retain the capability to support victims and mount investigations against traffickers."

Senior officers said the move makes sense because said clubs and vice officers have expertise in helping trafficked women.

Earlier this year charities, which also include End Child Prostitution and Trafficking and the Poppy Project, which helps victims of trafficking, banded together to protest again the unit being disbanded.

They stress that with victims traded for different reasons - including sex, forced labour, and domestic servitude - specialist policing is needed.

Aidan McQuade, director of Anti-Slavery International, said getting rid of the team, "even if there are serious financial pressures", was "very dangerous".

"Clubs and vice have experience of trafficking for sexual exploitation but their remit does not cover trafficking for forced labour or domestic servitude," he said.

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