Hope for Justice battles modern slavery in the UK

By Ben Cooley, The CA magazine

11 April 2019

Ben Cooley co-founded Hope for Justice in 2008, a charity devoted to bringing an end to modern slavery and human trafficking. Find out what constitutes modern slavery and how it can be tackled.

You may be more exposed than you think to modern slavery.

As a nation we are slowly becoming aware that modern slavery is “right on our doorstep” and that it is rife in our communities and in the supply chains of even the best-known brands.

Even if your business is not the sort that, for example, imports raw materials or clothing from high-risk countries, you may be more exposed than you think to modern slavery among your contractors and suppliers and in the businesses your employees use.

High-risk sectors include food manufacturing, agriculture, manual labour and construction, car washes, nail bars, recycling and waste management, and hotels.

No-one knows the true number of UK victims – estimates range from 13,000 up to 136,000. At Hope for Justice, a charity fighting the crime, everything our investigators and outreach workers see on the front line suggests its prevalence is indeed shocking.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is when one person controls another by exploiting some kind of vulnerability.

Usually a person is transported, often to a place they do not know, and forced into a service against their will: this is human trafficking, with the usual intent of putting that person into forced labour or forced prostitution.

Control can be physical, financial, psychological or emotional.

Victims in the UK are most commonly British or from Eastern European backgrounds, or else are Nigerian, Chinese or Vietnamese.

It is by nature a hidden crime; victims are hidden away and terrified of reprisals should they ask for help.

It is hard to believe modern slavery goes on right under our noses here in the UK.

Most traffickers take possession of their victims’ ID documents under the guise of “helping” with their paperwork to enrol them in a job.

Traffickers threaten the lives of victims’ family and friends or keep them under lock and key. They might not look like slaves but behind closed doors victims suffer brutal physical and emotional abuse, social isolation and extreme financial deprivation, feeling trapped with nowhere to turn.

I have sat with rescued victims and heard them recount traumatic and heartbreaking stories. It is hard to believe modern slavery goes on right under our noses here in the UK.

Typical indicators of modern slavery

Be on the lookout for people at a business premises or in overcrowded cheap accommodation who display an extreme fear of the authorities or who show signs of trauma (anxiety, lack of memory of recent events, bruising, untreated conditions).

They will have no contract or payslips, and will be wary of telling others about their life or work. They may even show signs of having been physically restrained or have untreated health/dental problems.

Hope for Justice is now making its expertise available to the business community.

Victims rarely self-identify out of fear, manipulation or ignorance. They often have vulnerabilities or come from chaotic home backgrounds – traffickers target the desperate and those without family or social support networks.

Engaging fully with victims is best left to the expert such as Hope for Justice. If we cannot help directly, we will find someone who can.

Hope for Justice is now making its expertise available to the business community via the Slave-Free Alliance membership scheme, which offers threat assessments, due diligence reviews, training resources, and a multitude of bespoke services.

If you think your organisation could benefit from training or to report a potential case, call 0300 008 8000 (office hours) or 08000 121 700 (outside office hours).

If someone’s life may be in danger, phone 999. For details of the Slave-Free Alliance membership scheme, call 0300 008 0044 or visit slavefreealliance.org.


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