Modern Slavery is a term used within the UK and is defined within the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The Act categorises offences of Slavery, Servitude and Forced or Compulsory Labour and Human Trafficking (which resulted from the Palermo Protocol).
It is a serious and brutal crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain. Victims may be coerced, deceived or forced against their will into a life of abuse, servitude, humiliation and inhumane treatment. The perpetrators are not only gangs and organised crime groups, but also individual opportunists.
Modern Slavery encompasses several broad categories of exploitation; the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has identified six elements which individually or collectively can indicate forced labour. These are:
- Threats or actual physical harm
- Restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area
- Withholding of wages or excessive wage reductions that violate previously made agreements
- Retention of passports and identity documents (the workers can neither leave nor prove their identity status)
- Threat of denunciation to the authorities regardless of whether the worker holds legal status in the UK or not.
Although human trafficking often involves an international cross-border element, it is also possible to be a victim of modern slavery within your own country.
Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. Forced labour in the private economy generates GBP 117 billion in illegal profits each year. In the UK in 2016, 3,805 people were identified as potential victims of trafficking. This is a 17% increase on 2015 figures. There is no typical victim of slavery. Victims are men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities and cut across the population. (Unseenuk.org, 2017)
Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
The GLAA regulates businesses who provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain, horticulture and agriculture industry, Shellfish gathering as well as any associated processing and packaging industry. It has been awarded additional powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE). These will allow the organisation to investigate abuse allegations across the entire UK labour market.
A labour provider must have a GLAA licence to work in the regulated sectors; it is a criminal offence to supply workers without a licence.
Spotting the signs
Here are a few things to look out for:
- An employer who cannot present a valid GLAA licence.
- Large numbers of workers being picked up from a house every day, or brought to the same location every day.
- Workers who are dependent on their employers for accommodation and transport.
- Does the individual have freedom of movement?
- Individuals who are not in possession of a passport, identification or travel documents. Are these documents in possession of someone else?
- Individuals who appear to have been harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care or other life necessities.
- Poor physical appearance – bad hygiene, poor diet, inappropriate clothing for their job.
- People who seem to be working very long hours for little or no pay.
- Workers who appear afraid of their employers, or who seem isolated / have very little personal freedom.
- People working in fast turnover jobs – carwashes, farms, factories, building work, nail bars, etc.
- Individuals who act as if they were instructed or coached by someone else. Do they allow others to speak for them when spoken to directly?
- Individuals who nominate an associates bank account details to be paid into. Is someone else in control of their earnings?
- Is the individual under the impression they are bonded by debt, or in a situation of dependence?
Myths about Modern Slavery
- All victims of modern slavery are smuggled into the UK and then exploited within the hidden criminal underworld
Many people from across Europe, who are entitled under free movement conditions – to live and work in the UK have fallen victim to forms of criminal exploitation particularly within areas of low paid unskilled manual work and within the sexual services industry. These services often operate in plain sight and are fuelled by economic and legislative differences and market conditions across EU member states.
- Human trafficking and people smuggling are the same thing
There are important differences between human trafficking and people smuggling. The main difference is the element of exploitation. People being smuggled as illegal migrants have usually consented to being smuggled. Trafficking victims have not consented, or have been tricked into consent.
What happens to each of them at the end of their journey will also be very different. The relationship between an illegal migrant and a people smuggler is a commercial transaction which ends on completion of the journey.
However, for people who are trafficked, the purpose of the journey is to put them somewhere where they can be exploited for the sake of the traffickers’ profits. In many instances the enticement to cover travel costs creates an agreed debt bond between the victim and the trafficker which acts as a lever for increasing levels of exploitation once a victim is placed.
- You cannot be a victim of trafficking if you gave your consent to be moved
Someone becomes a victim of trafficking not because of the journey they make but because of the exploitation they experience during or at the end of that journey.
Any consent they give to make the journey in the first place is likely to have been gained fraudulently, for example with the promise of a job or a better standard of living.
Therefore, the Palermo Protocol makes clear that human trafficking is about the three elements of the Act, the Means and the Purpose.
- Trafficking only affects people from other countries
Whilst people smuggling always involves illegal border crossing and entry into another country, human trafficking for exploitation can happen within someone’s own country, including Britain
Reporting Crimes of Modern Slavery
If you or another worker is being forced into labour, you have a number of options to report it:
- In the first instance the point of contact for all modern slavery crimes should be the local police force.
- If you have information about modern slavery crimes – those who are committing such crimes or where victims are at risk that requires an immediate response dial 999.
- If you need advice or want to talk to someone, or even if you hold information that could lead to the identification, discovery and recovery of victims in the UK, you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.
- Alternatively from the above, you can make calls anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
- If you suspect a colleague / other worker to be a victim of this crime, you can disclose your thoughts to the agency (if it is us or another employment agency) who can pass the details over on your behalf.
- If you wish to submit a report to the Modern Slavery Helpful anonymously, you can also do this online.