Covid-19 has created new challenges to identifying victims of modern slavery and those who exploit them for financial gain. The public can help to actively spot the signs of exploitation and repot their concerns.
It is a sad fact that adults and children continue to be exploited within our communities to line the pockets of those who exploit them. An individual may experience multiple forms of exploitation or abuse, but the most common forms of exploitation include:
- Labour exploitation –victims are compelled to work long hours for little or no pay, with their wages being kept or taken by their exploiters. It can happen in various industries including, but not limited to, hospitality, construction, agriculture, nail bars, car washes and waste disposal.
- Sexual exploitation –victims are forced into non-consensual and/or abusive sexual activity to benefit other persons.
- Criminal exploitation –victims are compelled to take part in criminal activities e.g. shoplifting, cannabis cultivation, fraud, to benefit other persons, often under the threat of punishment.
- Domestic servitude –victims are forced to live and work in private households working long hours carrying out a variety of domestic tasks for very little or no pay.
Exploiters use tactics such as violence, threats, debt bondage and coercion to keep their victims in situations of exploitation. The South Yorkshire Modern Slavery Partnership (SYMSP) is concerned that the current reduction in face-to-face service has created new challenges to identifying potential victims and providing them with the support they need.
Megan Bethell, SYMSP Coordinator explains, “Exploiters try to keep their victims in a state of fear and dependence so they feel unable to seek help. We are concerned that the current situation has reduced services ability to intervene, whilst increasing the hold exploiters have over their victims.
“We would like to make the public aware of the signs of exploitation and how to report their concerns to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or the Police.
“Through spotting the signs of modern slavery and reporting your concerns, you can help services such as the Police to safeguard victims and prevent others from being exploited.”
South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings said: “Modern forms of slavery are insidious because they are often hidden in plain sight.
“Modern slaves are people we see in our street, in our places of work, in our communities.
“Sometimes, though not always, they are people trafficked here from some other part of the world. We are not talking about people in shackles, but their lives are controlled absolutely nonetheless.
“We need everyone to be alert to the possibilities and to have, what I would call, a good neighbourly curiosity about the signs we are seeing.
“We can stop this evil but only if we all set our minds to making a difference.”
Below are a few common indicators a person may be a victim of modern slavery:
- Suggestions that they have had to pay for a job in the UK, and/or concerns they are in debt to another person for their accommodation, travel and/or job.
- Evidence of physical abuse including untreated injuries, scarring or appearing malnourished or unkempt.
- Wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather or type of work they are doing.
- Visible signs of distress or general fear or agitation, especially when speaking to strangers or those in a position of authority.
- Showing signs they are unable to move or speak freely; a victim may appear dependent on another to speak on their behalf, or for travel, food and/or money.
- Being vague or unclear about the type of work they have been doing or where they have been living.
- Children may be found in areas away from home, or go missing for unexplained periods, have money, gifts or items that they cannot afford and/or cannot explain.
If you are concerned about someone and want to report an incident, contact the Police on 101, or 999 if someone is in immediate danger. You can also call the Modern Slavery Helpline 24/7 anonymously to report an incident or get advice on 08000 121 700, or online at www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/report.
To find out more about modern slavery visit the South Yorkshire Modern Slavery Partnership website.
NEW: Please see guidance on Spotting the Signs of Modern Slavery Remotely.