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Public must wake up to problem of trafficking

Trafficking is happening in our communities and we must be the eyes and ears for the police, Catherine Bearder MEP said today.

It comes after 12 men were arrested in Oxford as part of an investigation into child exploitation of girls aged between 11 and 16-years-old.

They are being quizzed on a range of offences, including causing prostitution of females under age of 18, administrating drugs for purpose of rape, trafficking, grooming and rape.

Catherine has spearheaded a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the problem of trafficking in our towns and cities. On Monday, she is opening a training seminar on human trafficking at Oxford Brookes University.

And, following this morning's raids, Catherine stressed the importance of the public keeping an eye out for signs of trafficking in their own communities.

She said: "There is no doubt trafficking is happening in our neighbourhoods, but is almost always unseen or unnoticed.

"I cannot stress how important it is for everyone to be alive to the potential for this terrible abuse to be happening right under their noses."

Catherine is working to encourage Europe's budget airlines to train cabin crew and ground staff to spot the tell-tale signs of trafficking victims.

She has raised awareness of trafficking into crime and the sex industry around major sporting events, such as the Euro 2012 football tournament in the summer.

Thousands of people have also signed Catherine's petition 'Stamp Out Trafficking at our Olympics'.

Esther Davidson, from Oxford Community Against Trafficking (OXCAT), spoke about tackling the problem.

She said: "When trafficking was exposed in Oxford last year, our city was shocked that it could happen here.

"We now have to face the fact modern slavery takes place in our community, and it involves children.

"Yes, criminals are at work, but they are also exploiting demand. Demand for sex with under-age children is completely unacceptable."

Catherine added: "Tackling this terrible child abuse is a priority and I congratulate police in Oxford and the victim support teams for putting so much effort into this investigation.

"There may be other people in the community who have been affected and I would urge them to come forward and seek help."

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