Although the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade was abolished some four hundred years ago, slavery is still alive and active in the UK. There are no shackles but thousands of men, women and children are chained by fear and forced labour.
According to the Human Trafficking Foundation, between 2012 and September 2013, victims of human trafficking from 95 different countries were discovered in the UK ( Human trafficking is just another name for modern day slavery).
The exact figures are not known but it is believed that there are up to 20.000 victims hidden in the UK, 80% of which are from Europe. Figures show that between July 2011-December 2012, the UK Human Trafficking Centre/Serious Organized Crime Agency discovered 1,729 victims in the UK and 565 were children.
The body responsible for establishing who is a legitimate victim of trafficking is called the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). When someone is referred to the NRM they are provided with a minimum of 45 days shelter and support while the Police, or the UK Border Agency, decide if they are legitimate victims. In 2011, there were 946 victims registered through the NRM. But in reality, it is suspected that many victims are unknown to the NRM because they do not want to be referred to due to fear of arrest, deportation, or reprisals. As a result, it is believed that many victims remain hidden.
Although the rates of conviction of traffickers in the UK are relatively low compared to the rest of Europe, this is said to be no indication that slavery is not prevalent in Britain. For example, according to the figures, the number of traffickers found guilty in the UK in 2009 was 16 compared to 80 in Romania, 128 in Italy, 174 Holland, 203 Spain and 107 Greece. It is argued that one explanation for the low rate of convictions in the UK of traffickers compared to the EU is that cases are harder to evidence in UK courts. Additionally, those who are arrested in the UK for human trafficking are more likely to be convicted for other crimes such as rape and GBH. It’s also believed that the convictions in the UK are only a fraction of what is actually happening.
Human trafficking has no age, or gender restrictions and the type of work victims are forced to do varies. The figures suggest that 33% of adult victims in the UK are” forced labour slaves.” The types of work they are forced to do are food processing, agriculture, construction, leaflet delivery, hotels, pavement laying. Many are forced into crime, drugs, benefit fraud and theft (HTF).
Home Office estimates in 2009 suggested that there were 4000 sex slaves in Britain. In 2010 the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) indicated that 30,000 women were engaged in “off-street prostitution; 17,000 were not UK citizens, 2.600 were trafficked and 9,600 possibly trafficked (HTF).
Personally, the most disturbing facts are those regarding child victims. The Human Trafficking Foundation claim that at least one child a day is trafficked in Britain ( MDS). Evidence shows that children are forced to work as sex workers, domestic slaves,and in cannabis farms, or as street beggars.
Human trafficking is Global but the top countries of origin of victims are Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, Nigeria, Albania, Hungary, Czech Republic, South Central Asia, South East Asia, West Africa, Vietnam and the UK. In 2012, 22% UK nationals were victims of slave labour.
No detailed data exist regarding where victims are found within the UK. The government argues that disclosure of where victims are found would put the victims at risk. But campaigners argue that such data would provide a clear picture of regional “hotspots and patterns”. Mapping trends would identify criminal networks and targeted areas resulting in more traffickers caught and more victims saved.
After being discovered, the plight of legitimate victims of trafficking is bemoaned by campaigners. It is claimed that many don’t receive ongoing support. If they are allowed to remain in the UK, they are left to cope on their own, there is no record of their condition, or what has happened to them.
The kind of help victims need if they are to remain in the UK has been identified: help to integrate, access training, work experience, employment, housing (HTF).
An 18 month investigation into modern day slavery in the UK conducted by The Centre for Social Justice resulted in a report being published in March 2013. The report contains 80 recommendations. Two key recommendations enacted by the Coalition government are:
- A Modern Slavery Act which received Royal Assent 26 March 2015. The Act is designed to address slavery in the UK.
- An Anti-slavery Commissioner to develop independent monitoring and reporting on the UK ‘s response to modern day slavery. In November 2014, the Home Secretary appointed Kevin Hyland as the first UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
Though hard to believe, modern day slavery is indeed alive and active in the UK and throughout the world.
It is fictional to believe that if we ignore it it will disappear.
Modern Day Slavery: THE HIDDEN AGENDA- First Edition, September 2013, Human Trafficking Foundation, Keep Hidden: Property of HMG- September 2013, HTF, Human Cargo: Hidden Slaves in UK, September 2013, HTF