Specialist anti-slavery teams are to be placed at airports to help spot potential victims of human trafficking.
Teams led by Border Force, the law enforcement command within the Home Office, will be tasked with identifying potential slavery victims, disrupting organised crime gangs and collecting intelligence on trafficked adults and children.
The first of the specialist teams will begin work on April 1 at the UK’s biggest airport, Heathrow.
New teams will be rolled out to Gatwick and Manchester later in the year with further ports to be identified over the coming months.
Modern slavery and organised crime minister Karen Bradley, who was brought into the Home Office as part of a minor reshuffle triggered by the departure of immigration minister Mark Harper, said: “Our front-line Border Force officers are aware that they could be the first authority figure in the UK to have contact with a potential victim of modern slavery.
“Their role is vital in identifying and protecting victims and ensuring there is no easy route into the UK for traffickers.
“The new specialist teams will build on existing skills and joint working and extend that expertise around the country.”
Border Force officers will be assisted by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which will help develop a specialist training package.
Once identified, child victims of trafficking are to be provided with specialist support under a scheme being trialled by a number of local authorities from April.