Modern Slavery is a serious issue across the globe and is
known to be present in the UK, although figures are difficult to establish as
it’s often a hidden crime.
Home Office figures from 2014, when the Modern Slavery Bill
was introduced in the House of Commons, estimated that there were 10,000 to
13,000 potential victims in the UK.
What is Modern Slavery?
There are several activities that come under the umbrella of
Modern Slavery, including:
- Human trafficking – when people are moved within
a country or across borders in order to be exploited.
- Slavery – where ‘employers’ use physical or
mental abuse or threats to force someone to work. The individual is usually
considered a commodity to be bought or sold and can have restrictions placed on
their freedom and physical movements.
- Servitude – where someone is forced to provide a
service, but without the ownership element of slavery. This is usually domestic
servitude in a private household and the victims are often made to work long
hours with low or no pay.
- Forced labour – when someone is forced to work
without having volunteered and with threat of penalty if they don’t comply,
including threats to themselves or their families. It can occur in a range of
industries, such as agriculture, construction, fishing, hospitality,
manufacturing and nail bars, and can involve children. Certain industries have
a legal responsibility to publish an annual statement showing what they do to
prevent Modern Slavery in their own business and those supplying the business.
- Sexual exploitation – includes sexual abuse,
forced prostitution, child abuse used for image or video production.
- Criminal exploitation – using an individual to
carry out activities that are against the law, such as theft or trafficking
drugs. It also covers financial crime, where money is taken from a person who
has been made to beg, claim it in benefits or take out credit cards or loans.
Other abuses can include forced or sham marriage, illegal
adoption and organ removal.
Who is at risk of Modern Day Slavery?
Anyone can be at risk – adults or children of any gender,
ethnicity or nationality. Apparent consent is not considered relevant if
someone has been coerced, deceived or offered payment or another benefit.
Anyone under 18 who has been recruited, transported, received or harboured for
exploitation is treated as a victim of trafficking whether or not they have
been coerced, deceived or given payment.
Who is responsible for safeguarding individuals and
bringing perpetrators to justice?
The police work alongside immigration officers, social
workers and support organisations. They can use the National Referral Mechanism
to identify and assist potential victims and protect their rights.
Child victims are protected under child abuse legislation (including
the Children Act 1989) and child protection procedures, which should be
followed by the police and the relevant local authority’s children’s service.
What are the common signs of Modern Slavery?
There are several potential signs, including but not limited
to the following:
- Underfed or unkempt appearance
- Withdrawn or frightened behaviour; fear of
authorities; accompanied by someone who always speaks for them
- Fake documents or legal documents being held by
- Physical injuries especially those that are
untreated or for which no clear explanation is given; delays to seeing a
- Inconsistent answers to basic questions
- Always wearing the same clothes or garments
unsuitable for the work they do
- Ordinary homes or businesses with particularly
high security, such as covered or barred windows and a number of security
For children signs can include:
- The absence of a parent or legal guardian
- The child not attending school and/or not being
registered with a GP
- Moving frequently or being housed with multiple
- Having missing, altered or false documents
- Appearing frightened or traumatised
Reporting and further information
Those responsible for safeguarding children or reporting
possible Modern Slavery often find that cases are identified when dealing with
another issue, for example a public order matter, and it’s important to look
beyond the immediate situation for clues.
As individuals and gangs involved in Modern Slavery are
likely to be violent and dangerous, any concerns should be reported to the
police to avoid putting yourself and victims at risk. This can be done by
calling 999 or 0800 0121 700.
Victims trafficked into the UK may be able to apply for
leave to remain or asylum, or may be helped to return to their country of
origin if desired.
For more information, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/modern-slavery