Who works at the cannabis farm next door?
The Observer thinks the authorities are failing, but could communities also do more to identify potential cases of trafficking?
Recently the Observer highlighted the case of Hien, a 14 year old from Vietnam who was trafficked into the UK. Hien was picked up at Heathrow by the British authorities and was put into care but his traffickers caught up with him and he disappeared. He was found 6 months later during a raid on a cannabis farm. Read more here
People like Hein trafficked to work in cannabis farms have been tricked or coerced by the traffickers. They are forced to work for long hours with little or no pay; they have often had their passport taken from them and are often threatened with or suffering from physical or mental abuse.
The Observer article calls for UK officials to up their game and improve their response to victims of trafficking. But should we rely only on official services to prevent trafficking? Or could Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ have a part to play?
A report in 2010 found that the number of cannabis factories in the UK were continuing to rise, the most recent figure being 7000 per year, which has more than doubled since the previous report was published in 2007. A large percentage of these are found in converted homes in residential areas. Therefore each one is likely to have a next-door neighbour, a community on the door-step that might notice something suspicious. Whether you call it Big Society or think that’s just a reinvention of good old community action, trafficking is something that we know can be prevented through increased community awareness and responsibility. Read the signs and know what you’re looking for. If you see anything that you think is suspicious, report it to the police as it could be a living nightmare for a victim of trafficking. If everyone knew what to look out for maybe more human trafficking victims like Hein could be found.
Possible indicators or a residential property turned into a cannabis farm:
- The windows of the property are permanently covered from the inside
- Visits to the premise occur at unusual times of the day or night
- People do not seem to live in their premises but visits are regular
- There may be a vent protruding through the roof or a rear window
- There may be a pungent smell
- Noise coming from various types of equipment (i.e. cooling fans)
- Compost bags, black sacks, laundry bags or garden equipment left outside, usually in the rear of the premises.