Last year, police in England and Wales recorded more than 3,300 modern slavery offences, an increase of 49 per cent on the previous year.
More than 5,000 potential victims were passed to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the framework responsible for identifying and giving support to slavery victims. More than 40 per cent of these victims were children. The National Crime Agency’s estimate of up to 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK dates from 2013. The current figure is likely to be far higher.
Slavery is not only becoming more prevalent but is also changing in ways that are likely to catch the attention of EH professionals, said DCI Phil Brewer, who leads the Metropolitan Police Modern Slavery and Kidnap Unit.
“When we first became aware of it as an issue, modern slavery was mainly about sexual exploitation – international groups trafficking women into the UK for prostitution,” he said.
“But now we are seeing many more cases of forced labour. In 2013, for instance, I think we only had seven allegations of forced labour. Fast-forward to last year and we had 2,300 allegations [of modern slavery] and over half of those were for forced labour.”
According to the NRM, forced labour (which includes cannabis cultivation and county lines drug supply) is currently the most common form of modern slavery in the UK, followed by sexual exploitation and then domestic servitude. In the last quarter of 2018, there were two cases of organ harvesting.
A quick guide to warning signs that could indicate people being kept in servitude:
- Evidence of a workplace being used for accommodation
- Workers are distrustful of authorities
- Workers look uneasy, unkempt or malnourished
- Signs of psychological trauma
- Untreated injuries
- Evidence of control over movement (being picked up and dropped off in groups)
- Signs of substance misuse
- Workers don’t know work or home address
This is an extract from a feature that appeared in the March 2019 issue of EHN. The photograph above is by Rory Carnegie, who was commissioned by the National Crime Agency to produce a series of images to raise awareness of modern slavery.
CIEH's first conference on this subject, Modern Day Slavery: Collaborating to Tackle Exploitation, is in York on Monday 11 March.