What Does Modern Day Slavery Look Like In The UK?

Slavery was abolished in the UK with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. While outright slavery and forced labor do not existed it is estimated that several tens of thousands of people living in the UK are trapped in modern day slavery. The numbers are impossible to estimate because the forced labor is well hidden. Here is what modern day slavery looks like.

Human Trafficking

The vast majority of enslaved peoples who are trafficked into the UK are from overseas, come primarily from Albania, Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania, and Poland. Some are kidnapped while others come willingly with the promise of a better life. Once they arrive their passports are stolen, and they are forced into everything from prostitution to forced labor in agriculture, construction, hospitality, manufacturing, and domestic slavery. This includes children, men and women. Some are forced into lives of crime. Almost all are abused and threatened if they try to escape and the lives of their families in their home country are often threatened.

While the overwhelming majority of enslaved individuals are from other countries, British nationals are enslaved too. With immigration tightening up in the UK and around the globe, it is getting more difficult to sneak kidnapped victims in. To meet the demand for cheap labour and ongoing victimization, slavers are victimizing more to British nationals. Whether foreign or nationals, what most enslaved individuals have in common is that they are in some way vulnerable—young, old, weak, poor, uneducated, or are not fluent enough in English to advocate for themselves. Most are so fearful of their life that even if they are provided with the opportunity to be outside of their confines they do not try to escape.

The rise in trafficking and force labour has become so concerning that the Modern Slavery Act of 2015 was introduced to include the lack of freedom that the Slavery Abolish Act does not encompass.

Modern Slavery Act Of 2015

One of the challenges with the Modern Slavery Act is that few who are enslaved understand their rights or would know who to reach out to if they are enslaved. However, the Act is essential not just in prosecuting traffickers and forced laborers and their accomplices—but in protecting the enslaved for the type of work they are forced to complete. This includes work that is illegal. The Act:

  • Makes prosecuting the traffickers easier by consolidating the existing slavery offences.
  • Increases sentences for slavery offences.
  • Bans prosecuting victims of slavery for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers, such as drug production or petty thefts.
  • Introduces child trafficking advocates to better protect trafficked children.
  • Makes big UK businesses publicly report on how they tackle slavery in their global supply chains.
  • Establishes an independent anti-slavery commissioner to overlook the UK’s policies to tackle slavery.

How To Help Someone Who You Believe Is Enslaved

Far too many enslaved individuals end up incarcerated for the crimes they are forced to commit or if they are identified by immigration, they are assumed to be illegal immigrants—not victims of trafficking. Since the Modern Day Slavery Act was enacted the reports of forced labor are on the rise—increasing to 5,000 potential reports in 2017 which is up one-third from 2015. Even at that, it is a small fraction of the enslaved.

Most who are forced into crime, labor, prostitution, and slavery are well-hidden—or employed in positions where the average person would not engage in meaningful ways. This can make trafficking difficult to spot. In the past few years police have undergone training to help identify trafficking and slavery. Unfortunately, even when someone is brave enough to report their enslaved status—or the presumed enslaved status of someone else, few too many cases are taken seriously.

To ensure that you are heard, reach out to the legal team at Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors Our team knows the proper channels for reporting modern day slavery, how to gather sufficient evidence, and how to ensure each case is taken seriously—with the full protection of the Modern Day Slavery Act of 2015.