Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), British Transport Police (BTP), Kent Police and UK Border Force have today, Tuesday 12 September, undertaken an operation at the Eurostar terminals at St. Pancras International and Ebbsfleet, aimed at safeguarding children and vulnerable people from harmful practices and human trafficking.
Operation Limelight is a pro-active, multi-agency safeguarding operation at the UK border looking at individuals travelling to, or from the UK to ‘countries of prevalence’ of harmful practices, such as FGM, forced marriage, child abuse linked to faith or belief and breast ironing. Whilst the operation has run previously at UK airports, today’s initiative is the first time it has been implemented at a rail terminal.
Officers from Project Azure, the MPS response to tackling FGM, British Transport Police, Kent Police and Border Force, worked with partner organisations including Eurostar, HS1 Ltd. and Camden Social Services to undertake a combination of educational and enforcement activities, including:
- Delivering enhanced training about FGM and other harmful practices to officers and staff who work at the Eurostar Terminal to raise awareness of the practice and identify those affected;
- Preventative work with passengers on inbound trains from ‘countries of prevalence’, including distribution of literature to raise awareness of the issues;
- Engagement with passengers from communities affected by this crime;
- Identifying possible offences in order to take action against those responsible.
Survivors of FGM also attended the operation, to provide advice and witness first-hand how the police and Border Force officials tackle this issue.
Inspector Allen Davis from the Metropolitan Police’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said: “FGM is illegal and constitutes child abuse. As with other harmful practices it is a hugely complex issue that we collectively need to understand better; hence the training and support provided to those involved in today’s operation. Practising communities are likely to adapt to the increased attention given to these issues. Those who support FGM want to continue what they see as an important cultural practise; and also to evade detection.
Police and partners are committed to working with communities to eradicate FGM, however there are no quick fixes. To be more effective, we need communities and professionals to share information as to what is happening, who is involved and whom is at risk. Information can be shared via Crimestoppers or by calling Police via 101.”
Detective Chief Inspector Darren Malpas from British Transport Police said: “BTP is committed to reducing personal harm and helping to protect and safeguard vulnerable children, vulnerable adults and all those with particular needs or who may be at risk of harm in the railway environment.
“I’m pleased officers from the three forces and the Border Force were able to come together to help tackle these issues and raise awareness.”
Andy Coram, Border Force Assistant Director for South East and Europe, said: “This joint operation has played a key role in raising awareness with passengers about harmful practices such as FGM and forced marriage.
‘As part of Border Force’s safeguarding role, it is vital that we protect the vulnerable and identify children who may be at risk at every opportunity. Our important work to support some of the most vulnerable in society will continue at stations, ports and airports across the UK.”