Though many people may consider slavery to be an issue of the past, with the festive season upon us we’re probably closer to it at this time of year than any other.
Slavery tends to be thought of as problem long-since resolved, yet men, women and children are routinely trafficked and forced into abject poverty and deprivation across the world today.
In fact, there’s an estimated 13,000 slaves in the UK alone.
Globally, the number of people trapped in slavery today swells to 40million.
The areas of our lives affected by slavery are widespread with forced labour existing in the hospitality, domestic, retail and beauty industries to name a few. Understandably demand for all of these industries is high at this time of year – and, of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. But perhaps we could all bear in mind to consider this Christmas; who is that person doing your nails, working the late-night car park or serving your dinner? Are there any concerning signs [see below] and if so, what can you do about it?
By familiarising ourselves with the signs of slavery – and what to do if we witness it – we can all help to safeguard against labour exploitation in the industries we’re likely to be using over the Christmas period.
Business too, has a crucial role to play.
As consumers we’re generally becoming more concerned about the provenance of our food but not many of us are aware that there may be human costs involved in bringing the Christmas turkey to your plate. The complex global supply chains involved in the food and drink industry combined with the recruitment of short-term unskilled labour to grow and package food – often with tight turnaround to meet demand – creates an environment where unscrupulous labour providers often thrive.
Businesses have a responsibility to eliminate slavery in their supply chains.
Indeed, the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 stipulates that any business with an annual turnover of £36million or above is required to provide a statement outlining the steps it has taken to ensure there is no slavery in any part of its business. Some have taken this responsibility seriously going above and beyond the requirements of the law.
It’s a mixed bag, however, with some companies failing to comply with the legislation at all and reportedly half of qualifying businesses failed to comply with Act in time for the deadline.
There is hope that things are improving and although not perfect, the Modern Slavery Act is at the very least a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done.
Businesses must search for the existence of modern slavery within every level of their operations – the people they employ, their supply chains, the people they buy goods from, the agencies they work with.
Contemporary slavery is an urgent global problem. The hope is that even more companies and consumers take a stand against it.
What you can do to help – how to spot the signs of modern-day slavery
Below is an outline of some of the main signs can indicate a person is trapped in forced labour – and what to do about it.
1. Confinement: Victims may seem under the control of or being influenced by someone else, they may rarely interact with others. They may also appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, neighbourhood, workplace, and are likely not allowed to travel on their own.
2. Living conditions: Victims work and home address may be the same address, and they may be living in unhygienic, cramped or overcrowded accommodation.
3. Physical and psychological signs: Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse such as appearing detached, or looking dishevelled and malnourished.
4. Lack of identification: Victims may have few personal possessions, no identification documents, and wear unsuitable/similar clothing day in day out.
5. Little freedom of movement: Victims have limited opportunity to move freely and have had their travel documents such as their passport taken off them.
6. Unusual travel times: It is likely victims are transported at unusual times when going to work or moving accommodation, either very early or late at night.
7. Scared and reluctant to seek help: Victims may have a loss of trust and fear law enforcers due to being scared of deportation or the risk of harm being inflicted to them or their family. Victims may appear scared and avoid eye contact or talking to strangers.
If you think someone is in immediate danger from modern slavery please call the police on 999.