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Human traffickers to target London's Olympic boom

Organised crime specialists are warning the Olympic Delivery Authority and contractors to watch out for an epidemic of illegal immigrant workers being offered as cheap labour in the run up to the London 2012 Games.
The Serious Organised Crime Agency is concerned that human trafficking run by eastern European organised crime gangs will reach frightening levels as construction workload booms.'SOCA came to talk to us about east European organised criminals bringing in gangs of illegal immigrants. The gangmasters are going to be attracted by the money to be made out of the UK industry's huge demand for labour over the next six years,' a senior executive at one of the UK's biggest contractors told NCE.The ODA also confirmed it had recieved a visit from SOCA. It is estimated that an extra 50,000 construction workers are needed to build all the new projects created by London's Games win.SOCA and the Police are concerned about criminals trafficking people via Romania and Bulgaria when they join the EU on 1 January 2007.Construction is one of the sectors that SOCA says is vulnerable. Criminal gangmasters pocket the pay of terrified illegal immigrants who are put to work to pay off their passage (see box). 'We are maintaining a dialogue with industry to keep it abreast of the problem of human trafficking,' said a SOCA spokesman.The ODA said it was working with SOCA to reduce the opportunities for organised crime. 'Security checks will be put in place to check all the legal documents of personnel to ensure they have the right to work in this country,' said an ODA spokesman It is expected that SOCA will also talk to subcontractors and labour only suppliers.However one major contractor told NCE that organised crime would not be a problem. It said that the requirement for all workers to have a Construction Skills Certification Scheme card would make it all but impossible for its sites to be a haven for human trafficking.But subcontractors blasted the industry for its attitude to a growing problem. 'It shows the amazing naivity of the construction industry,' said one leading supplier. 'It's like saying there is no credit card fraud because there is now chip and pin. 'CSCS cards can be bought on the black market. Legitimate front companies can be set up to deliver the illegal labour.'Contractors are happy to take the cheapest price for labour and don't ask questions. They hide behind lump sum prices which don't reveal the rates being paid.'Clients can try to be responsible but the prices they expect to pay for projects on the advice of their professionals are all based on cheap labour costs.'In the shell fisheries and agricultural industries gangmasters supplying labour have to be licensed by Defra after the Morecombe Bay tragedy in 2004 when 21 Chinese illegal immigrants drowned. But there are no plans for similar licensing in construction. 'Temporary workers all have to be EU nationals,' said a DTI spokesperson. 'Gangmasters is not a term we recognise.'If you suspect that human trafficked labour is being used on your site you should contact your local police, SOCA said.jackie.whitelaw@emap.com

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