Modern Slavery is one of the 22 priority concerns included in our quarterly survey.
Modern Slavery may appear a remote concern for many, but it could well be closer than you think. In mid-October 2019, Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Matthew Barber, tweeted that 262 modern slavery crimes had been recorded by Thames Valley Police over the past year; this is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. Victims of forced servitude are often ‘hidden in plain sight’, and may be washing your car, painting your nails, working in a hotel where you stay, and in many other situations.
What is Modern Slavery?
The Home Office has published a booklet on awareness of Modern Slavery and guidance on victim identification. You can download the brochure here:
The booklet lays out four broad categories of exploitation:
- Labour Exploitation: usually involving unacceptably low pay, poor working conditions or excessive wage deductions. In order to constitute modern slavery there will also be some form of coercion meaning that victims cannot freely leave for other employment or exercise choice over their own situation. Where the perpetrator is taking advantage of a child or vulnerable person, an offence can be committed without the element of coercion.
- Domestic Servitude: typically involving victims working in a private home where they are ill treated, humiliated, subjected to unbearable conditions or working hours or made to work for little or no pay. Perpetrators may even be their own family members or partner. Again, it is very difficult for them to leave, for example because of threats, the perpetrator holding their passport, or using a position of power over the victim.
- Sexual Exploitation: victims are coerced into sex work or sexually abusive situations. This includes
child sexual exploitation. Victims may be brought to the UK on the promise of legitimate employment, or moved around the UK to be sexually exploited. In some cases they may know they will be involved in sex work, but are forced into a type or frequency they did not agree to. Victims are more commonly female but can also be male.
- Criminal Exploitation: the exploitation of a person to commit a crime for someone else’s gain. For example victims could be coerced into shoplifting, pick-pocketing, entering into a sham marriage, benefit fraud, begging or drug cultivation such as cannabis farming.
Case studies include:
- Vietnamese nationals being trafficked and exploited to work at a nail bar;
- a British Pakistani man, who kept his wife in domestic servitude for two years;
- a Czech man and his Romanian girlfriend who trafficked two women aged 25 and 26 from the Czech Republic for sex work in a private residence;
- two Polish brothers, who trafficked 18 men from Poland to work in a Sports Direct warehouse in Derbyshire;
- a 13-year-old Romanian girl trafficked to the UK by an organised crime group to undertake forced begging.
How to spot signs
There are many possible indicators of modern slavery. Crimestoppers UK has produced the following list of 9 major signs:
- Showing signs of injury, abuse and malnourishment;
- They look unkempt, are often in the same clothing and have poor hygiene;
- Appearing to be under the control and influence of others;
- Living in cramped, dirty, overcrowded accommodation;
- They have no access or control of their passport or identity documents;
- Appearing scared, avoiding eye contact, and being untrusting;
- They’re collected very early and/or returned late at night on a regular basis;
- May have inappropriate clothing for the work they are performing, and/or a lack of safety equipment;
- May be isolated from the local community and their family.
What can you do?
“Why is Modern Slavery on the Neighbourhood Policing Survey? Surely it’s not a Neighbourhood Policing matter?”
Actually, given that the role of Neighbourhood Police is to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Police within communities, it makes sense that they may be more likely to pick up when something seems wrong. Coordinated, major operations against Modern Slavery may be beyond the scope of Neighbourhood Policing, but the Tweet below shows that Neighbourhood Police DO carry out local level operations. Members of the public can play a vital role in the fight against modern slavery, servitude and forced labour by reporting concerns, including in our quarterly surveys.
However, we would encourage anyone with any suspicion or concern not to wait for the survey. You don’t need to be certain that modern slavery is taking place to report concerns.
If you have any suspicions:
- Call 999 if there is immediate danger of harm;
- Call 101 if there is not an immediate risk of harm; or
- Call the Modern Slavery Helpline free on 08000 121 700. Trained Advisers available 24/7 to offer confidential, advice and support for any victim, statutory agency, business, or member of the public regarding modern slavery suspicions or concerns.
If you have information about the mistreatment of workers, labour providers operating without a licence or a business, you can contact Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority – call 0800 432 0804.
The video below reports on an operation at Iver, Bucks, led by Thames Valley Police supported by numerous agencies including the National Crime Agency, and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.