Spotting the Signs of Modern Slavery
The Neighbourhood Alert from West Midlands Police contains the following statement:-
Sadly we know modern slavery is happening now in the West Midlands. A well-hidden crime, it takes place in places such as hand car washes, take-away restaurants, hotels, recycling plants and packaging warehouses.
There is no one type of victims. Victims we have rescued have been men, women and children, although many are from minority groups.
All are vulnerable, all are frightened, all need help.
We are running a dedicated police operation right now to crack down on modern slavery, arrest gangmasters and liberate victims.
We need your help. These are the most common signs of someone being forced into work against their will:
- People may show signs of psychological or physical abuse. They might appear frightened, withdrawn or confused
- Workers may not have free movement and may always be accompanied
- Workers often lack protective equipment or suitable clothing and have not been trained to safely fulfil the requirements of the role
- The person may not have access to their own documents, such as ID or their passport, with the employer having confiscated them
- Individuals may not have a contract and may not be paid National Minimum Wage or not paid at all
- Workers are forced to stay in accommodation provided by the employer. This accommodation could be overcrowded
- Individuals could live on site
- Workers could be transported to and from work, potentially with multiple people in one vehicle
- The person might not accept money or be afraid to accept payment
- Workers may work particularly long hours
Just as the lockdown started in March, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published its latest report into a growing problem which takes on many forms and is often carried out within local communities. In the summary section it revealed the following harrowing statistics:
- The Modern Slavery Helpline received a 68% increase in calls and submissions in the year ending December 2018, compared with the previous year
- There were 5,144 modern slavery offences recorded by the police in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019, an increase of 51% from the previous year
- The number of potential victims referred through the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) increased by 36% to 6,985 in the year ending December 2018
- There were 205 suspects of modern slavery flagged cases referred from the police to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019.
- Almost a quarter (23%) of the 6,985 potential victims referred through the NRM in the year ending December 2018 were UK nationals.
- Of the 2,251 potential victims supported by The Salvation Army in England and Wales in the year ending June 2019, 48% had experienced labour exploitation and 39% had experienced sexual exploitation.
Each and every one of these victims is someone’s son or daughter, brother or sister, many of the British victims are chosen because they are often vulnerable; children in care recruited to deliver drugs as part of the county lines operations. Others are trafficked for sex or forced into working long hours of hard physical labour and are often targeted by the gangs that run them because they are mentally ill, living with addictions, have learning difficulties or are homeless. In addition to the Salvation Army there are several charities working to not only identify potential victims but to provide care for those who are rescued as their vulnerability means they are 70% more likely to wind up trafficked again.
How can we the general public and we as Workplace Chaplains, lend our support to eradicating this modern scourge which worldwide according to Premier Christianity is thought to number up to 40 million victims, even more than the transatlantic slave trade?
By learning to spot the signs as listed above we can begin to take action. Establishing relationships rather than by undertaking surveillance (which is best left to Police and other professionals) is key and where we can make a difference. As Chaplains, talking to people particularly for those of us who minister in public spaces such as bus stations and shopping centres or visit high street businesses comes with the territory. Engage in conversation with those whom you feel may not necessarily be there of their own free will, or appear to be fearful of large crowds or of particular kinds of people or other outward signs which might suggest all is not what it appears to be. We need to become the additional pair of eyes and ears on the ground; by being aware of the signs which may identify and save a victim from the violence and exploitation they suffer, and who otherwise would remain voiceless for lack of help.
West Midlands Police have provided the following points of contact if you have reason to believe that someone may potentially be a victim of modern slavery.
Modern Slavery Helpline, 08000 121 700, you can also report suspicions using their free to download Unseen App.
Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or live chat our staff via the website https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/
Sometimes understandably, people are reluctant to voice their suspicions lest they be proved wrong or create trouble or embarrassment for themselves. However it is far better to be concerned or suspicious and report them to the appropriate authorities and perhaps save a life; than to look the other way, and in doing so perpetuate the suffering of another of God’s children.
 Source: Premier Christianity Magazine, June 2020 pp50-53