Modern slavery involves recruiting and moving people using threats, deception and coercion to exploit them.
It takes many forms but the most common are sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. Victims are forced to work in various settings such as brothels, cannabis farms, nail bars, car washes, agriculture, and even within people’s homes.
Slavery isn't confined to history or other countries. It's a global problem and is happening right now, here in Lancashire.
Human trafficking can also be a part of modern slavery as a person is moved from one place to another. This could be country to country, town to town, or even as simple as one room in a building to another. Even if a victim agrees to be moved, trafficking could still be taking place.
Unfortunately, few people understand modern slavery and many confuse it with ‘migrant working’ or ‘illegal immigration’.
It's a problem that affects all ages, genders, and ethnicities, and affects people from Britain and abroad.
Victims are generally living in fear. They don't fully understand what's happening to them and comply with their abusers in hiding the reality. They daren't speak up because their traffickers threaten them and their families with violence.
This area of policing is complex and spotting modern slavery can be hard.
In many cases organised crime groups (OCGs) are responsible for trafficking people into the UK. However, sometimes victims will travel into the UK by their own means (sometimes they're asked to by their their families), expecting to start legal employment, unaware of the situation that awaits them.
We are committed to preventing people from being trafficked by bringing those responsible to justice. To do this, we need your help.
We want to raise awareness of this issue so that people will recognise the signs and report modern slavery to us.
We ask you to look closer. Could the signs be right in front of you? Is it happening where you live?
Spotting the signs
There are a number of signs that could indicate that someone is a victim of slavery. They may:
- Show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished, unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
- Rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control and influence of others, or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
- Live in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and could be living and working at the same address.
- Have few personal possessions, often wear the same clothes or are poorly equipped for the job they are carrying out.
- Have little opportunity to move freely and have no identification or travel documents in their possession.
- Be dropped off and collected for work on a regular basis either early or late at night.
- Avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fearful of law enforcers and authorities.
If you feel you are in a situation where you are being exploited, or you suspect someone is a victim of modern slavery, there is help available:
- Always call 999 if you or the person is in immediate danger, if there’s no immediate danger, call us on the non-emergency number 101.
- Lancashire Victims Services are available to offer help and support on 0300 323 0085.
- You can also call the national modern slavery helpline that offers 24/7 advice on 08000 121 700.
- You can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report it online. When you contact them your identity will be protected.
Types of modern slavery
There are three broad categories of exploitation linked to modern slavery seen in the UK and here in Lancashire:
Sexual exploitation can happen to women, men and children of both sexes, and it involves any non-consensual or abusive sexual acts. This includes, but isn't limited to, prostitution, escort work and pornography.
It’s important to bear in mind that victims may have been deceived or coerced into giving consent without realising what they have actually consented to. Many will have been deceived with promises of a better life, romantic relationships, or legitimate jobs and are then controlled through violence and abuse.
Sexual exploitation remains the largest form of exploitation across the UK and is the type we most commonly see in Lancashire. Victims tend to come from Eastern European countries but they also come from the UK.
Forced labour is when someone is made to work very long hours, often in poor conditions, and hand over the majority or all of their wages. Traffickers often use threats and violence to control their victims.
Manufacturing, entertainment, travel, farming and construction industries throughout the world use forced labour, some of which is trafficked. There's been a marked increase in reported numbers in recent years. Often, large numbers of people are housed in single dwellings. There's also evidence of ‘hot bunking’ – where a returning shift takes up the sleeping accommodation of those starting the next shift.
Across the UK labour exploitation is seen within car wash, factory and agricultural based industries. In Lancashire we're using intelligence led policing techniques to identify 'hotspot' areas where traffickers are most likely to operate.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has identified six elements which individually or collectively can indicate forced labour. These are:
- Threats or actual physical harm.
- Restricting movement and confining people to the workplace or to a limited area.
- Debt bondage.
- Withholding wages or making excessive wage reductions that violate previously made agreements.
- Retaining passports and identity documents (the workers can neither leave nor prove their identity status).
- Threat of reporting to the authorities where the worker is of illegal status.
Domestic servitude involves forcing someone to work in private households. They won't be free to go out to places as they'll be confined to the house much of the time. They'll be forced to care for children and house-keep over long hours and for little, if any pay.
Victims will lead very isolated lives and have little or no unsupervised freedom. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor in an open part of the house.
When victims do receive a wage it will be heavily reduced, supposedly to pay for food and accommodation.