The move to disband the Metropolitan Police Services' anti-trafficking unit was described by one British activist as a "very disappointing development."
Activists against human trafficking in the United Kingdom have expressed their dismay after an announcement that Britain's only anti-trafficking team was being disbanded.
Metropolitan Police Services' anti-trafficking unit will see its operations absorbed elsewhere in the force on April 1, according to the Metropolitan Police, the largest police force within the United Kingdom, in a recent announcement.
The anti-trafficking unit was launched in 2007 and has succeeded in several prosecutions. It was threatened with closure in 2008, but extensive lobbying encouraged the Home Office, the U.K. government department responsible for immigration control, security and order, to continue funding it for another 12 months.
However, the Home Office, needing to streamline services, has cut funding for the team. The resulting reorganization has seen the unit absorbed by the Metropolitan Police's, or Met's, clubs and vice department.
A Met spokesman said the force is "committed to continuing to focus on the important issue of human trafficking," adding that the move will "reduce duplication" and improve "leadership, governance, accountability and clarity for partners and victims."
But Stop The Traffik (STT), the global organization founded by Baptist minister Rev. Steve Chalke, said the work will suffer.
"We see this as a very disappointing development. This specialist unit has been responsible for many high-profile and successful anti-trafficking operations," Simon Chorley, STT's advocacy and partnership officer, told The Baptist Times. "They have prosecuted traffickers, protected victims and worked to prevent human trafficking. They have also been proactive in cooperating with Stop The Traffik in raising public awareness and enhancing the flow of community information.
"Given the experience and expertise of this team, the continued plight of vulnerable victims and the upcoming 2012 London Olympic Games, such a move by the Metropolitan Police would seem to contradict claims that the U.K. is a hostile environment for human traffickers, and that this issue is core to police business."
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.