Is the house next door the same as yours? Is a house just a home? Or can you bring down the walls, cover the windows, rig up the heating and turn a property into a commercial cannabis farm? 3032 cannabis factories were identified between 1 April 2007 and 31 March 2008; 94% were converted homes in residential areas.
What is less risky and more profitable: trafficking children into the UK to grow cannabis or trafficking the cannabis itself? Cannabis has traditionally been imported into the UK by drug dealers, but business has now changed. It is now more profitable and less risky to bring in children to look after the crops. Women are also trafficked for this crime.
Did you know most cannabis production in the UK is by Vietnemese gangs? There is an unbelievably high number of Vietnemese boys detained for drug/immigration offenses. A lot of these boys are the ones trafficked and forced to grow cannabis. Last month, a UK agency investigated a network that had trafficked over 50 Vietnemese poeple for cannabis cultivation; the person escorting the group was paid €10,000 per person. The problem is that when found, victims are usually prosecuted as criminals even though under UK law they they’ve been trafficked and should be given necessary care. Do drug offenses have priority over trafficking? Just as a property, business, or crime may not be what they seem, neither is a child protection issue always obvious.
a missing child?
Once bailed or released, those detained are either deported or end up in local authority care. There is a big problem that vulnerable/traficked children then go missing from care and end up back under the control of their traffickers. The UK’s Missing Person’s Bureau found that 68 Vietnemese children went missing between 1 April 2008 and 31 October 2009.
By knocking down our own walls and breaking down stereotypes we might have, we can open our eyes to what really lies beneath the surface of these crimes. Police may say it is not their role to focus on defense issues (left for the prosecution). But no other crime will test frontline judgement and compassion as much as trafficking- the crime that disguises its victims behind criminal behaviour. “How many criminals are actually some kind of victim?” is the question they and we need to keep asking.
For more information on children who go missing from care: