West Yorkshire’s Anti-Human Trafficking Network (WYATN) holds its inaugural meeting (24 Nov 2014)

A ground-breaking project aimed at helping victims of human trafficking holds its first meeting tomorrow (TUE) with its potential new members.

Representatives from organisations including the Home Office, West Yorkshire Police, the Salvation Army, the NHS and local authorities safeguarding teams will be at the event at Weetwood Police Station in Leeds to sign up to the network and discuss what more can be done to combat human trafficking across the region.

The WYATN was created by anti-human trafficking charity Hope for Justice in conjunction with West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson after he was awarded £200,000 from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) earlier this year to create and lead the network.

The network (WYATN) will bring together statutory agencies including West Yorkshire Police together to ensure a co-ordinated approach to helping victims of trafficking.

The aim of the meeting is to discuss how to successfully implement the network within West Yorkshire, including considerations surrounding the intended objectives of the network, organisations that should be included and its governance.   

It will also offer a chance for network members to find out how they can access the free training being offered by Hope for Justice through the funding committed by the PCC.

Mr Burns-Williamson said: "The establishment of the network and this meeting is the first step in strengthening and building on our comprehensive network of partners who can work closely together to ensure this horrific crime and practice is detected and stamped out.

"In addition to the MoJ funding I have set aside at least £1m for West Yorkshire Police to establish a specialist resource focused on tackling trafficking gangs.

"The wide range of partners attending shows how seriously we all take this issue and our commitment to protecting victims and witnesses.

"The network will ensure we are tackling this significant emerging threat together, in a joined up way, by raising awareness, ensuring perpetrators have no place to hide and victims know they have support in place to rebuild their lives. This first meeting is the first step towards achieving that."

Allan Doherty, Hope for Justice Director of Operations, added: "Human trafficking is perhaps one of the hardest crimes to recognise and to deal with.

"Many frontline professionals, as well as the public, struggle to understand what the crime is and to identify victims.  Victims themselves can sometimes not realise they are being tricked and exploited and can be controlled by manipulative traffickers who see them as nothing more than modern day slaves.

"The West Yorkshire Anti Trafficking Network (WYATN) will work to bring together the many different organisations who may come into contact with victims of human trafficking. It will help raise awareness of the crime, modern day slavery as it is often known, and help to develop and share good practise in preventing it and helping those who become victims."

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