When you hear the word Slavery what do you think? Slavery makes up an important part of history, as does the era in which the law abolished the allowance of people owning slaves (in 1833) which ended millions of people’s suffering. Unfortunately, slavery is not consigned to the past and it’s prevalent in our modern-day society.
While industries may have changed, exploiting people for financial gain hasn’t. Unauthorised local car washes, nail bars, takeaways, restaurants and brothels are just some of places we’re finding victims, and what we’re seeing is just the tip of the iceberg.
What is modern slavery?
Modern slavery is the movement and trade of people of any age, often for the purpose of sexual exploitation, forced labour or organ harvesting. Modern slavery can include victims that have been brought from overseas and vulnerable people in the UK.
What types of modern slavery are there?
Almost all forms of modern slavery include some element of forced labour, which is ‘any work or services people are forced to do against their will’. Some forms of modern slavery can be found below:
Sexual exploitation involves non-consensual or abusive sexual acts performed without a victim’s permission. This includes prostitution, escort work and pornography. Women, men and children of both sexes can be victims. Many will have been deceived with promises of a better life and then controlled through violence and abuse. It is also possible to exploit a person who consensually engages in providing sexual services.
Forced / compulsory labour involves victims being compelled to work very long hours, often in hard conditions without relevant training and equipment. They often hand over the majority (if not all) of their wages to their traffickers. The types of work and working environment can often be described as ‘dirty, demeaning or dangerous’. Forced labour crucially implies the use of coercion and lack of freedom of choice for the victim. In many cases victims are subjected to verbal threats or violence to achieve compliance.
Manufacturing, entertainment, travel, farming and construction industries have been found to use forced labour by victims of human trafficking in various extents. There has been a marked increase in reported numbers in recent years. Often large numbers of people are housed in single dwellings and there is evidence of ‘hot bunking’, where a returning shift takes up the sleeping accommodation of those starting the next shift.
Domestic servitude involves the victim being forced to work in private households. Their movement will often be restricted and they will be forced to perform household tasks such as child care and house-keeping over long hours and for little if any pay. Victims will lead very isolated lives and have little or no unsupervised freedom. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor in an open part of the house.
In rare circumstances where victims receive a wage it will be heavily reduced, as they are charged for food and accommodation.
Persons under the age of 18 are classified as children in the UK, they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by individual opportunists, traffickers and organised crime groups. They can be deliberately targeted by criminals, or ruthlessly exploited by the people who should protect them.
Children can be subjected to any of the exploitative conditions as mentioned above and common countries of origin for victims include Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania, Slovakia and the UK.
Organ harvesting involves trafficking people in order to use their internal organs for transplant. The illegal trade is dominated by demand for kidneys. These are the only major organs that can be wholly transplanted with relatively few risks to the life of the donor.
It could be happening in your neighbourhood
The National Crime Agency reported that 5145 potential victims were submitted through the National Referral Mechanism in 2017, an increase of 35% when compared with 2016. Reporting showed potential victims of trafficking originating from 116 different nationalities. The most common exploitation type recorded for potential victims was labour exploitation, which also includes criminal exploitation.
What’s being done to tackle the issue of Modern Slavery?
We work hard to safeguard vulnerable individuals and or children suspected of being victims of slavery. BBC TWO’s ‘The Prosecutors’, follows an investigation by ourselves and Staffordshire Police in 2017, unravelling a human trafficking operation in the city of Bath. Young Vietnamese teenagers were shipped across the country and forced to work without wages, in poor conditions in nail bars. Three people – including a woman from Bath – were jailed in January 2018 following the first successful prosecution in the UK for exploitation and enforced child labour, under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act.
The investigation only came about after officers carried out a multi- agency welfare visit to Nail Deluxe in Westgate Street, Bath in February 2016. Welfare checks are vital practice in our work to identify and tackle modern slavery and we work together with charities and local councils to share information and to disrupt known modern slavery industries in our force area. These welfare checks depend on information and the public play a very crucial role in helping to stamp modern slavery out.
Our vision is to eradicate all forms of modern slavery in our area. Help be the voice for some of society’s most vulnerable by telling us what you see – together we can end Modern Slavery.
What are the signs?
Not all of victims of modern slavery are aware they’re slaves, working conditions may seem better than what they would receive at home. Criminals are taking advantage of this and this I why it’s important members of the public speak out for them, by telling us what you see you might help free someone enslaved with or without their knowledge. Some of the common signs which might indicate modern slavery is a possibility:
Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished, unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
Poor living conditions
Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address.
Few or no personal effects
Victims may have no identification documents, have few possessions and always wear the same clothes. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.
Restricted freedom of movement
Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, such as their passports.
Unusual travel times
They may be dropped off / collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.
Reluctant to seek help
Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.
What do I do if I suspect there is modern slavery going on?
In the first instance the point of contact for all modern slavery crimes should be the local police force. If you have information about modern slavery crimes – those who are committing such crimes or where victims are at risk that requires an immediate response dial 999.
If you hold information that could lead to the identification, discovery and recovery of victims in the UK, you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.
For more information visit the independent charity www.unseenuk.org