Modern Slavery is an international crime that affects an estimated 29.8 million slaves around the world. It is estimated there are 13,000 people held in slavery in the UK today. In 2015 there were 3,266 potential victims identified and referred to the National Crime Agency. 

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern Slavery takes a number of forms including sexual exploitation and forced labour. Often the person is forced or compelled to work and they are often controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse. Signs that someone might be a victim of modern slavery include:

  • Show signs of injury, abuse and malnourishment MS Composite
  • Look unkempt, often in the same clothing and have poor hygiene
  • Be under the control and influence of others
  • Live in cramped, dirty, overcrowded accommodation
  • Have no access or control of their passport or identity documents
  • Appear scared, avoid eye contact, and be untrusting
  • Be 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

It can include victims that have been brought from overseas, and vulnerable people in the UK, being forced to illegally work against their will in many different sectors, including brothels, nail bars, factories and agriculture.

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What are the various industries vulnerable to Modern Slavery and how can I spot the signs?

Agricultural

Victims are often Eastern European – promised seasonal or temporary work by traffickers who then force them to work in fields or food processing factories, often for little or no money.

Through the threat of violence, may be forced to live in squalid accommodation & have their identity documents taken from them.

Often the victims themselves don’t understand that they have been exploited and are therefore not aware that they are entitled to help & support.

Recruitment agencies & umbrella companies who source temporary workers SHOULD have policies & system checks in place with the companies seeking workers which ensure vulnerable individuals seeking UK employment are not taken advantage of.

Victims of Agricultural Slavery may typically display the following signs:

  • Workers are often transported en masse – working excessively long hours over long periods
  • May have inappropriate clothing for the work they are performing, and/or a lack of safety equipment – often in the same clothing and have poor hygiene
  • Be under the control and influence of others – sometimes are spoken for by a ‘controller’
  • Live in degrading, unsuitable places, such as agricultural or industrial buildings either isolated or overcrowded
  • Have no access or control of their passport or identity documents or have false paperwork – many have to ‘buy’ back their identity for large sums of money
  • Work excessively long hours over long periods for little pay
  • Have little contact with their family and in some cases threats of violence towards their family members are used

Nail Bars

Victims are often, but by no means always, Vietnamese women, brought into the UK by traffickers & forced to work long hours for little or no money in plain sight of the public.

Many of these seemingly legitimate businesses are used as a front for brothels, with many of the women being forced into prostitution in the evenings.

Controllers often use threats, violence & coercion.

Nail bars may also be used to launder the proceeds of crime from cannabis farms & other illegal operations.

Below are some suggested signs to spot but they may not apply in every situation:

  • Be under the control and influence of others – sometimes are spoken for by a ‘controller’
  • Live in multi-occupancy accommodation, often work at the same address
  • Have no access or control of their passport or identity documents or have false paperwork
  • Work excessively long hours over long periods for low or no wages
  • Inadequate personal protection and ventilation (leading to exposure to chemicals)
  • Have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
  • Many victims are moved from one premises to another to avoid detection

Construction

Diverse, multi-cultural nature of the construction sector makes it particularly vulnerable to employers that utilise modern day slaves.

There is no legal requirement for employment agencies to register construction workers as self-employed, resulting in victims being forced to be employed via umbrella companies rather than directly.

Many victims come from countries known for low wages & are misled on how much they will be paid.

Victims often also charged high recruitment fees, creating a debt & therefore desperation – resulting in them signing less favourable contracts.

Through the threat of violence, may be forced to live in squalid accommodation & have their identity documents taken from them.

Below are some suggested signs to spot that may be displayed by an individual that is a victim of this crime in the construction sector:

  • Be under the control and influence of others – sometimes are spoken for by a ‘controller’
  • Not allowed to leave the site unaccompanied
  • Live in multi-occupancy accommodation, often work at the same address
  • Have no access or control of their passport or identity documents or have false paperwork
  • Work excessively long hours over long periods
  • Cannot negotiate their working conditions
  • Be under the impression that they are bonded by debt
  • Have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment

Car Washes

Mobile nature of the business makes it very vulnerable to employers seeking to exploit their manual workers.

Sites are often unregulated & as a result are not protected by UK law.

Victims are usually newly arrived immigrants and/or vulnerable individuals; in the south of the country, usually Eastern European & in the north, usually non-EU nationals.

Through the threat of violence, may be forced to live in squalid accommodation & have their identity documents taken from them.

Victims in this field are often so keen to stay in the UK that they do not realise they are victims & so cannot access the help available to them when they need to.

Listed below are some of the signs that victims may display:

  • Be under the control and influence of others – sometimes are spoken for by a ‘controller’
  • Not allowed to leave the site unaccompanied
  • Live in multi-occupancy accommodation, often work at the same address
  • Have no access or control of their passport or identity documents or have false paperwork
  • Work excessively long hours over long periods for little to no wage – often having no control over their finances. Additionally they can be charged for the use of the equipment required to work
  • Be under the impression that they are bonded by debt
  • Have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment

Catering & Hospitality

Extremely vulnerable sector to employers seeking to exploit vulnerable people as modern day slaves.

In restaurants & takeaways, many victims are Bangladeshi, Chinese & Nepali.

Hospitality sector victims are often Latin American in descent.

Violence & intimidation often ensure that victims are work excessive hours, live in squalid accommodation & have their identity documents taken from them.

Recruitment agencies providing a legitimate service can find themselves targeted by traffickers & illegal/unlicensed gangmasters.

Some victims don’t understand they have been exploited and are entitled to help and support.

Below are some suggested signs to spot but they may not apply in every situation:

  • If working front of house they may appear under the control and influence of others – sometimes are spoken for by a ‘controller’
  • Usually working behind the scenes e.g. kitchen hands or cleaners
  • Often not allowed to leave the premises unaccompanied
  • Live in multi-occupancy accommodation with insufficient hot water, electricity, food and sleep arrangements
  • Have no access or control of their passport or identity documents or have false paperwork
  • Cannot negotiate their working conditions and work excessively long hours over long periods for little to no wage
  • Be forced to open a bank account and have no access
  • Be under the impression that they are bonded by debt
  • Have limited contact with their families or with people outside of their immediate environment
  • May wear the same clothes each day and not always have the correct health and safety clothing/equipment

MS Car Wash Compressed   MS Nail Bars Compressed

What's the difference between Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking?

The terms 'Modern Slavery' and 'Human Trafficking' are often used interchangeably. They can be taken to mean the same thing on most occasions, but Human Trafficking may also refer to the movement of people from one place to another. Human Trafficking often involves threat, force and coercion, and people may be trafficked into Modern Slavery as a result of abduction or deception.

 

Want to find out more?

Please email us at MDS@Crimestoppers-uk.org if you would like more details.


What to do if you are a victim of Modern Slavery

Due to our anonymity guarantee, we can't take information from victims of crime. If think you may be a victim of Modern Slavery you can contact the charity Salvation Army by calling their 24-hour confidential helpline on 0300 038151.

The UK Modern Slavery Helpline is 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.  Trained Helpline Advisers are available to discuss potential signs of modern slavery and discuss options for callers or victims in need. You may call free at 08000 121 700 or contact them online at www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/.