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Modern Slavery in the UK

Article Date: 22-03-2019

In the UK, modern slavery refers to institutional slavery that continues to exist in present day society. Depending on the method of measuring and the definition of slavery being used, there are an estimated 40.3 million people worldwide living in modern slavery. It’s something that most people don’t see or consider in their everyday life despite being evidently so prominent.

“The Global Slavery Index estimates that there were 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the United Kingdom (UK) on any given day in 2016, reflecting a prevalence rate of 2.1 victims for every thousand people in the country.” – The Global Slavery Index

Amongst adult victims, the most common type of exploitation experienced in the UK is through the sex industry. Victims in the UK are typically, but not always, taken from their homes in a foreign country and trafficked in order to be used for sexual exploitation. According to The Home Office in 2014, the highest number of supported victims were female of forced sexual exploitation from Albania, closely followed by Vietnamese and Nigerian women who primarily reported exploitation in the sex industry.

There’s a stigma attached to sexual exploitation too, that the women who were taken from their homes were already working in the sex industry or were living on the streets with no ‘value’ to society. This isn’t the case. Unseen UK states that 15.4 million victims of sexual exploitation worldwide are subject to forced marriage – seventy percent of which are women and girls.

“There is no typical victim of slavery. Victims are men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities and cut across the population. However, it’s normally more prevalent among the most vulnerable or within minority or socially excluded groups. In 2017, the UK Modern Slavery Helpline indicated that 2,288 potential victims of modern slavery cases were men, while 1,547 were women. Child victims are victims of child abuse and should therefore be treated as such using existing child protection procedures and statutory protocols.” – Unseen UK

The image below is provided by The Global Slavery Index and illustrates the countries where modern slavery is most likely to occur. The darker the orange appears, the worse the given country is at preventing/detecting/acting upon reports of slavery.

Of those in modern slavery, here’s how the 40.3 million breaks down according to antislavery.org:

  • 10 million children
  • 9 million people in forced labour
  • 4 million people in forced marriage
  • 8 million people in forced sexual exploitation

Do you know the definition of modern slavery?

Someone is in slavery is they are…

  • Forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;
  • Owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
  • Dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
  • Physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.

“The UK government has been active in driving international action to address modern slavery and human trafficking. Globally, of the governments that have taken the most action to combat modern slavery, the 2018 GSI ranks the UK as third behind the Netherlands and the United States. Successes include committing £150m of development aid to tackle trafficking, securing the endorsement of over 60 countries to a Call to Action to address modern slavery, and flagship legislation criminalising modern slavery and holding the private sector to account.” – The Global Slavery Index

So far we’ve explained what modern slavery is, where it’s most common and the figures to support both with evidencing quotes from reputable sources – but how do you know if you suspect someone who may be in slavery and who should you contact?

Someone in slavery might:

  • Appear to be under the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others
  • Not have personal identification on them
  • Have few personal belongings, wear the same clothes every day or wear unsuitable clothes for work
  • Not be able to move around freely
  • Be reluctant to talk to strangers or the authorities
  • Appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse
  • Dropped off and collected for work always in the same way, especially at unusual times, i.e. very early or late at night.

Who you should contact if you suspect modern slavery:

(Contact information provided by www.antislavery.org)

 

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