Modern slavery involves the recruitment and movement of individuals using threats, deception and coercion for the purpose of exploitation.
It takes many forms but the most common are sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. Victims are forced to work against their will in many different settings, including brothels, cannabis farms, nail bars, car washes, agriculture and even within people’s homes.
It is not an issue confined to history or an issue that only exists in certain countries. It is a global problem and it is happening right now here in Lancashire.
Human trafficking can also be a part of modern slavery as a person is moved from one place to another (this could be country to country, town to town, or even as simple as one room in a building to another). Even if a victim consents and is willing to be moved, trafficking could still be taking place.
Unfortunately, few people understand modern slavery and many confuse it with ‘migrant working’ or ‘illegal immigration’.
It is a problem that transcends age, gender and ethnicities, and can impact both foreign nationals and British citizens.
Victims are generally living in fear, do not fully understand what is happening to them and comply with their abusers in hiding the reality – often because of threats of violence made to them and their families.
This area of policing is complex and identifying modern slavery can be difficult. In many cases Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) are behind the trafficking of people into the UK. However, in some cases victims will willingly travel into the UK by their own means (sometimes at the request of their own families), to then only make their first contact with their trafficker based upon an offer of apparent legal and legitimate employment, unaware of the situation that awaits them.
We are committed to preventing the trafficking of human beings by bringing those responsible to justice. In order to do this we need your help. We want to raise awareness of this issue so that people will recognise the signs and report modern slavery crimes to us.
We ask you to look closer. Could the signs be right in front of you? Is it happening where you live?
Spotting the signs
There are a number of signs that could indicate that someone is a victim of slavery. They may:
- Show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished, unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
- Rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control and influence of others or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
- Live in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and could be living & working at the same address.
- Have few personal possessions, often wear the same clothes or are poorly equipped for the job they are carrying out.
- Have little opportunity to move freely and have no identification or travel documents in their possession.
- Be dropped off and collected for work on a regular basis either early or late at night.
- Avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fearful of law enforcers and authorities.
If you feel you are in a situation where you are being exploited, or you suspect someone is a victim of modern slavery, there is help available:
- Always call 999 if you or the person is in immediate danger, if there’s no immediate danger, call us on the non-emergency number 101
- Lancashire Victims Services are available to offer help and support on 0300 323 0085
- You can also call the national modern slavery helpline that offers 24/7 advice on 08000 121 700
- You can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report it online. When you contact them your identity will be protected.
Types of modern slavery
There are three broad categories of exploitation linked to modern slavery seen in the UK and here in Lancashire:
Sexual exploitation can happen to women, men and children of both sexes, and it involves any non-consensual or abusive sexual acts. This includes, but is not limited to, prostitution, escort work and pornography.
It’s important to bear in mind that victims of exploitation may have been deceived or coerced into giving consent without realising what they have actually consented to, many will have been deceived with promises of a better life, romantic relationships, legitimate jobs and are then controlled through violence and abuse.
Sexual exploitation remains the largest form of exploitation across the UK and is the category we most commonly see in Lancashire. Victims tend to come from Eastern European countries but they also come from the UK.
Forced labour involves victims being made to work very long hours, often in arduous conditions, and hand over the majority, if not all, of their wages to their traffickers. In many cases victims are subjected to verbal threats or violence to achieve compliance.
Manufacturing, entertainment, travel, farming and construction industries throughout the world have been found to use forced labour by victims of human trafficking to some extent, with a marked increase in reported numbers in recent years. Often large numbers of individuals are housed in single dwellings and there is evidence of ‘hot bunking’ – this is where a returning shift takes up the sleeping accommodation of those starting the next shift.
Across the UK labour exploitation is evident within car wash, factory and agricultural based industries, and in Lancashire we are using intelligence led policing techniques to identify 'hotspot' areas where traffickers are most likely to operate.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has identified six elements which individually or collectively can indicate forced labour. These are:
- Threats or actual physical harm;
- Restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area;
- Debt bondage;
- Withholding of wages or excessive wage reductions that violate previously made agreements;
- Retention of passports and identity documents (the workers can neither leave nor prove their identity status);
- Threat of denunciation to the authorities where the worker is of illegal status.
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 pay, if any.
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 do receive a wage, it will be heavily reduced, supposedly to pay for food and accommodation.