During the pandemic, this year’s official Anti-Slavery Day on 18th October passed almost unnoticed – as did victims of slavery in the UK today. In March Surrey Police searched over 100 locations and made 7 arrests but they warned that “Modern slaves are often hidden in plain sight”.
The Atlantic slave trade may have been made illegal many years ago, but unfortunately that did not bring an end to slavery. There are now estimated to be more than 40 million victims around the world – at least 13,000 in the UK.
Where might you find slavery?
Many of the UK victims are away from public view in brothels, cannabis farms, “county lines” drug gangs or working as unpaid domestic servants – but others can be found in plain sight begging or working in nail bars, car washes or other businesses.
How to spot the signs
If you see someone you have concerns about, consider whether they display any of these signs which are indicators of a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking:
Physical appearance – does the person show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn and neglected? Might they have untreated injuries?
Isolation – is the person rarely allowed to travel on their own, or do they seem under the control or influence of others? Do they rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work?
Poor living conditions – do they live in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, or live and work at the same address?
Restricted freedom of movement – does the person have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out? Perhaps the clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work. They may have little opportunity to move freely.
Unusual travel times – are they dropped off or collected for work on a regular basis, either very early or late at night?
Reluctant to seek help – do they avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers? There may be many reasons for this, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.
Victims of modern slavery may be of any age, gender or nationality but perhaps surprisingly the top nationality of victims of modern slavery in the UK is British.
How to report a suspected case
If you know anyone who is being threatened or coerced to work for little or no money – you can report it to the police by calling 101 or online at surrey.police.uk or you can call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.