The Joint International Policing Hub (JIPH) has, over the last couple of years, been working closely with the Vietnamese to help tackle Modern Slavery Human Trafficking (MSHT). Vietnam is a priority country for the UK in this regard. Addressing the issue upstream at source is critical to success. The JIPH entirely funded two scoping visits in February and April 2018; and liaising with a wide variety of stakeholders in Vietnam and the region (in partnership with the Home Office (HO) Modern Slavery Unit, British Embassy (BE) Hanoi, NCA and IEI) initiated the first of a two-year rolling programme of delivery of collaborative training for Vietnamese investigators and senior leaders commencing in October 2019. In a truly collaborative process a four volume set of Human Trafficking investigation manuals for practitioners and senior leaders was produced. Six courses have been delivered so far – three to practitioners and three to senior leaders. Crucially, representatives from the judiciary were also present. Such joint training proved to be quite innovative in the Vietnamese context. Feedback has been extremely positive. The latest course iteration finished mid- January, however Covid-19 has postponed subsequent courses until September at the earliest.
MSHT is a key thematic piece of work for the JIPH, in support of both HMG and UK policing. The JIPH has built a unique regional insight into the subject matter from an international policing perspective and continues to support the HO Modern Slavery Unit (MSU) with this work going forward as a key, active partner. Momentum is important and the JIPH have been able to assist in keeping this up as well as ensuring that the very strong connections it has built up in the region are not lost. Continued involvement means that the learning and expertise that it has gained is put to best use. Discussions with a range of stakeholders across the Asean region and Europe has shown there is a clear appetite in replicating the work carried out in Vietnam elsewhere in the region.
It was clear that HMG was doing a lot around Modern Slavery, but not considering how policing could help. Equally, UK policing was doing a lot, but only focusing on the consequences of criminality and victimisation manifesting here in the UK. There was no consideration of tackling the problem upstream. In late 2017 the JIPH lobbied the HO MSU to support scoping from a specific law enforcement / police angle in support of the other work that HMG was undertaking. Vietnam was selected as the country to focus on as at the time it was the second most problematic country for inward Modern Slavery, after Albania.
A x-HMG delegation carried out an already arranged scoping visit during which they explored the potential benefit of accepting the JIPH’s proposals. Upon their return they agreed that JIPH should carry out scoping, as suggested. The JIPH worked closely with the BE to arrange a meaningful programme, including access to key Vietnamese and international organisations. The JIPH sought to identify a subject matter expert from UK policing to join us on the visit. Having done so, they were unavailable to assist at the time. It was clear that the JIPH would have to become SME’s in our own right. We therefore studied the subject as much as possible prior to our visit and became very well-informed of the issues as a result.
The Vietnamese Police is a very hierarchical, proud, closed organisation. Historically they have not opened themselves up through fear of criticism and a certain amount of paranoia. A sensitive approach was required from the outset. For instance, ‘Modern Slavery’ was not a term they accepted or recognised. They were also reluctant to accept they had any issue regarding Vietnamese nationals being trafficked to the UK, let alone engaging in criminal activity once here or being victimised. The reality was embarrassing for them and they were reluctant to accept it. One tactic they used to deal with this was to focus on the problem that they did accept – the trafficking of women and girls to China for sexual exploitation. This was their priority, with the UK issue being nothing more than a blip on their radar.
The JIPH held very formal meetings with senior representatives of the Ministry of Public Security and the People’s Police Academy (PPA). Carefully balancing an offer of support with outlining the mutual benefit of engagement the JIPH put a primary focus on the desire for a truly collaborative approach. The UK does not know it all and we were at pains to say that we would not be seeking to transpose UK methodology onto Vietnam. We truly wanted to understand their context and work together in a 50:50 approach to tackle the issue. We made careful offers while making clear that any intervention would be seeking to have a longevity that would ultimately see the Vietnamese being self-sufficient.
Another key point was the JIPH did not want any offer of training and development to be sucked up by senior officers at headquarters. For the initiative to be truly successful, there was a need to capture various levels of the organisation, both centrally and crucially in the Northern provinces where most of the issues emanate. Having strongly but sensitively stated our case to senior members of the authorities, throwing in a bit of humour we were able to develop relationships with people at more of a practitioner level within the PPA. This we did successfully. We went on to have discussions with the range of stakeholders listed above and upon our return to the UK, drew up a series of recommendations in a first report.
The HO MSU and BE very much liked what the JIPH pulled together and there was a clear appetite to follow-up. Having got this reaction, the JIPH proposed next steps, which included a more focused look at some aspects of our findings, including attending part of an existing Australian programme to assess the potential for a collaborative approach with them. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) are major players in Vietnam and the region and were very supportive of our proposal to observe the delivery of their Asean Region Law Enforcement Management Programme (ARLEMP) Human Trafficking course.
Working with BE Hanoi the JIPH developed a second scoping visit programme (April 2018), which included attendance at ARLEMP and follow-up with other specific partners, including the Bali Process and Pacific Links Foundation (PLF) to consider in detail what other training was already occurring in the region. Upon attendance at the ARLEMP course which was providing training to participants from 20 Asean countries, the JIPH very quickly became joint trainers / mentors / facilitators at the request of the Australians. We provided presentations on international engagement and investigations and these were reviewed very positively. There was a strong appetite from the Australians to partner with us in the future.
A second report and consolidated set of recommendations was submitted to the HO upon return from the second scoping visit. One of these was to provide MSHT investigation training to the Vietnamese. The JIPH met with the HO MSU and promoted our thoughts, encouraging a substantive training programme to be developed, with associated training manuals. It was ultimately agreed that funds would be made available to support a rolling programme of quarterly courses aimed at both investigators and senior managers – to take place at various locations, including the relevant Northern provinces, and the production of manuals.
It was at this point the NPCC Modern Slavery team (MST) entered the arena and we worked with them to develop the detail of how the manuals and courses could be best developed. The JIPH remained the strategic lead on engagement and the NPCC MST were asked to deliver technical advice. The JIPH helped the HO to contract a retired officer via the Stabilisation Unit to lead on the development of the manuals and courses. This officer made an initial scoping visit with a representative from the NPCC team to specifically consider the development of the manuals and course. Having received the feedback from this focused visit, the JIPH advised on next steps. The contracted ex-officer was deployed to Vietnam for an 8-week period alongside two serving officer subject matter police experts for four weeks each in order to write the manuals and develop the course curriculum. Crucially, this was done in complete collaboration with the Vietnamese with officers assigned to this piece of work for the duration. It is testament to this work that a four volume manual on investigating human trafficking was developed within this timeframe in both English and Vietnamese, and a pilot course was delivered in May 2019. This was seen as a success by all parties.
Fast-forward to June 2019 and Mark participated in the ARLEMP 49 Transnational Child Sexual Exploitation as a result of a funded scholarship from the International Police Association (IPA). He was one of 13 officers from around the world to be awarded an Arthur Troop Scholarship which allowed him to develop upon previous relationships within the AFP and the PPA and attend as a full delegate – only the second UK officer ever to attend in its 15 year history. His course participation helped enhance and solidify relationships as well as create new linkages to assist with the MSHT programme of development.
In October 2019 the first substantive courses were delivered in Ha Long in the north of Vietnam. Two courses of a week each were delivered. On one day of each week, senior leaders received training. For the other four days of each week, investigators were trained. Importantly, it was not just police investigators that were on the course. They were alongside the judiciary (including judges) and border enforcement representatives. This approach is innovative in Vietnam and was seen as highly successful by all concerned. Feedback on the course was outstanding. It was delivered as a 50:50 double act by the retired officer in complete collaboration with a Vietnamese trainer. The Vietnamese were adding their own content as the course progressed and this needs to be subsumed into future iterations. An excellent interpreter allowed delivery to be relatively seamless.
The positive teamwork between the UK and Vietnam was palpable. Excellent relationships had been developed and there was a high degree of companionship and trust. Indeed, a number of the delegates were colleagues/friendship created from previous and subsequent ARLEMP visits which enhanced relationships further. Delegate feedback was very strong. The Deputy Ambassador closed the course and spoke highly of what had been developed, emphasising the ongoing importance of the work and the excellent collaboration that had taken place.
Whilst in the region in October 2019 the JIPH made follow up visits with partners from our initial scoping visits. Meetings were conducted with the Bali Process and PLF to update them on the progress of, as well as exploring opportunities to enhance the training programme further.
The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (Bali Process) speaks in very high terms of the work that JIPH have done. (The Bali Process raises regional awareness of the consequences of people smuggling, trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. It is a forum for policy dialogue, information sharing and practical cooperation to help the region address these challenges). They expressed strong interest in replicating what has done in Vietnam elsewhere in the region (clearly with tailoring to meet the context of each country). In addition, creation of the investigation elements is seen by PLF to complement and enhance their MSHT training and awareness programme. They too have a strong desire for our continued participation going forwards.
The JIPH is keen to ensure that the programme in Vietnam is continually improved throughout the rest of the cycle. At the end the hope is that the Vietnamese will be self-sufficient and able to embed the training within the police service at all levels, including at the PPA in some guise. We will not consider the work a success unless it has some legacy value.