Modern slavery encompasses slavery, human trafficking, forced and compulsory labour and domestic servitude. Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.
A large number of active organised crime groups are involved in modern slavery. But it is also committed by individual opportunistic perpetrators.
There are many different characteristics that distinguish slavery from other human rights violations, however only one needs to be present for slavery to exist.
The Home Office have produced guidance, Modern Slavery Awareness & Victim Identification Guidance aimed primarily at public sector staff setting out key facts about modern slavery.
Someone is in slavery if they are:
- forced to work – through mental or physical threat;
- owned or controlled by an ’employer’, usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
- dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
- physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.
Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, gender and races.
Modern day Slavery campaign from the Home Office
Human trafficking involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them.
If an identified victim of human trafficking is also an adult with care and support needs, the response will be co-ordinated under the adult safeguarding process. The police are the lead agency in managing responses to adults who are the victims of human trafficking.
There is a national framework to assist in the formal identification and help to coordinate the referral of victims to appropriate services, known as the National Referral Mechanism.
Signs of various types of slavery and exploitation are often hidden, making it hard to recognise potential victims. Victims can be any age, gender or ethnicity or nationality. Whilst by no means exhaustive, this is a list of some common signs:
- Adult is not in possession of their legal documents (passport, identification and bank account details) and they are being held by someone else;
- The adult has old or serious untreated injuries and they are vague, reluctant or inconsistent in explaining how the injury occurred.
- The adult looks malnourished, unkempt, or appears withdrawn
- They have few personal possessions and often wear the same clothes
- What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.
- the adult is withdrawn or appears frightened, unable to answer questions directed at them or speak for themselves and/or an accompanying third party speaks for them. If they do speak, they are inconsistent in the information they provide, including basic facts such as the address where they live
- They appear under the control/influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work. Many victims will not be able to speak English
- Fear of authorities
- The adult perceives themselves to be in debt to someone else or in a situation of dependence