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Case Studies

Modern slavery in UK

The UK could have at least 100,000 victims of ‘modern slavery’, according to a report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think-tank.

As the problem of modern slavery grows in this country, there is a risk that the Modern Slavery Act made law in 2015 has lured us into a false sense of security. Far from being finished, the work is only just beginning, the report says. A ‘local lottery’ exists when it comes to prioritising the anti-slavery fight across public authorities, and the response often remains reliant on personal leadership rather than it being core business, it is claimed.

The report says that ‘frontline agencies are only just getting started in the fight against modern slavery. They are in desperate need of guidance, resources, leadership and, crucially, data’ on the problem. It adds; ‘exploitation and abuse of vulnerable people is far too easy, with criminals still operating at low risk in many communities. Fighting modern slavery is complex and challenging, but by no means is it impossible. With the right strategy and proportionate resources backed up by a sense of urgency from Westminster, we can ensure an all-out assault on this vile crime’.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, prevention is crucial, the report argues. Section 54 of the 2015 Act (Transparency in Supply Chains) should be tightened, as the impact on supply chain transparency has been limited so far, the CSJ suggests. The report recommends: “The Government must introduce measures to increase compliance with Section 54, as well as effective ways to scrutinise and hold to account companies that fail to tackle slavery in their supply chains. This is particularly important to prevent an increase in labour exploitation in the aftermath of COVID-19.”

Victims are tricked and coerced into sexual slavery, crime, hard labour and domestic servitude. Forced addictions are increasingly used as methods of control, the report says. For the full 80-page report visit the Centre’s website.

Comment

For the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), its Lead on Modern Slavery, West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson said: “Modern-day slavery remains a very real and ongoing threat to our communities, which this latest report makes abundantly clear. It is a subject that I am personally committed to tackling and for many years I have campaigned both locally and nationally to raise awareness of the signs.

“This is having an impact, but as we can see from these findings, only a small percentage of the public recognise the indicators and we have to share this knowledge further and shine a spotlight on this crime. This why I have lent my full support to the commissioning of this report, contributing evidence and examples of good practice.

“It is, however, crucial that we understand more about the scale of the issue and what further work must be done to address it. I really welcome the recommendations of this report, which come at no better time, given some of the recent high-profile examples that we have seen up and down the country.

“I will continue to lobby for additional survivor rights and more stringent laws to remove from the perpetrators any opportunities to commit this terrible crime, which I know can have truly damaging effects.”

Background

West Midlands Police have run the biggest modern slavery investigation in the UK yet. Last year a Polish gang that had trafficked hundreds of people to the region were together jailed for 55 years. They made victims work long hours on farms and rubbish recycling centres, pocketing wages (and benefits). More on the force website.

West Midlands Police Supt Sally Simpson, the force’s lead for slavery, said: “Modern slavery is often linked to other crimes. Trafficking gangs will use the identities of victims to commit benefit fraud and victims are also controlled with alcohol and drugs and may be forced to beg in the streets, engage in the sale of illicit tobacco or be exploited in brothels or car washes.”


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