A recent human trafficking case in which women were trafficked into the UK to take part in sham marriages has lead to Europol issuing warnings to law enforcers of the prevalence of this kind of trafficking.
The trafficking took place in early 2013 by a criminal gang who lured Hungarian women into the UK through the Port of Dover, but once on British soil the gang forced the women to take part in marriages to men waiting here in the UK.
The gang members were caught and arrested at the end of last year and will face more than 13 years in jail. All of the gang members will also be subject to automatic deportation orders at the end of their sentences.
Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, supported the response to the cross-border people trafficking operation from the start by facilitating information exchange and the development of international links, as well as organising an operational meeting in Hungary for the competent authorities.
In light of this case Europol has issued an Early Warning Notification to law enforcement authorities to increase awareness of the exploitation of victims in organised marriages of convenience, which has been identified as an emerging trend in the trafficking of human beings.
Catherine Bearder, South East Euro-MP, has been working on human trafficking and, among other things, has been campaigning for the UK to have an anti-trafficking commissioner.
Catherine praised the victims for their bravery in ensuring the gang members faced justice and the police for taking the issue seriously. But the case has pulled into sharp focus the horror of human trafficking and the fact that women are being lured here under false pretences.
"This case really highlights this form of human trafficking. Vulnerable young women are being trafficked here and forced into sham marriages.
"I am pleased Europol was able to work with the UK Home Office in bringing these criminals to justice.
"Europol's warning to law enforcers across Europe that this kind of trafficking is on the rise should mean more cases like this are brought to a head right across the continent, that will mean fewer vulnerable women will be preyed upon.
"Europol's involvement in this case represents the kind of cross-border co-operation so crucial in catching some of Europe's most dangerous and unscrupulous criminals that is severely at risk if we decide to leave the EU."
Dave Magrath, from the UK Home Office's Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations team, said:
"These women were given false promises and trafficked for the sake of taking part in sham marriages. We have worked closely with our partners in Europol and the Hungarian National Police service to successfully stop these criminals who have actively targeted and manipulated vulnerable young women. Trafficking is an abhorrent crime and I hope this case sends a clear message to those involved overseas that international borders will not stop us from tracking you down and bringing you to justice."