Targeting exploitation

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The exploitation of migrant workers in Wisbech by unlicensed gangmasters and rogue landlords is being tackled by a new multi-agency task force.

Called Operation Pheasant, it brings together the police, the Gangmaster Licensing Authority, the fire service, the Department of Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs, UK Border Agency and Fenland District Council.

The Task Force, launched this month, builds on an existing local partnership targeting a range of issues of crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour, including theft, street drinking and rough sleeping.

Cllr David Oliver, chairman of the Fenland Community Safety Partnership, said: “As far as we know this bottom-up, community first approach has not been undertaken elsewhere before. The findings from the project so far has really proved that going out to the community and being accessible as part of a partnership is an effective way of engagement and intelligence gathering and taking appropriate action.”

The scope of the initial project has broadened to include rough sleeping and street drinking. The partnership has already taken positive action on these problems. Sixteen foreign nationals have made voluntary departures from the UK as a result of intervention from the task force and three foreign nationals, who had been sleeping rough and engaging in petty crime and anti-social behaviour, have been detained and removed from the UK by the Border Agency.

The project is part of the Wisbech 2020 Vision and supported by Fenland MP Steve Barclay, who said:

“I’m pleased to see something positive is being done to tackle this very serious problem. I’ve been pushing for multi-agency action on this for some time and recently raised it with the Home

Secretary.”