Modern slavery – a problem hidden in plain sight

Today is National Anti-Slavery Day and Sussex Police is taking the chance to remind local people that modern slavery is a problem often hidden in plain sight.

Reports of what is termed modern slavery have risen by almost 200 per cent in one year in Sussex as a whole. Sussex Police has already mounted 11 operations this year and have 63 ongoing investigations taking place at the moment.

The purpose of National Anti-Slavery Day is to raise awareness of all forms of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.

A spokesman for Sussex Police told Hastings In Focus: “The signs can be hard to spot but the effects can be very real, with vulnerable people forced to work in harrowing conditions, at risk of violence and sexual exploitation. Victims of all ages, nationalities and backgrounds may work in car washes, nail bars, farms or as domestics in homes, or elsewhere.”

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Detective Superintendent Jeff Riley who leads Sussex Police’s fight against modern slavery says: “Modern slavery is a crime hidden in plain sight, which exploits the most vulnerable and is controlled by organised criminals who trade on human misery for financial gain.

“We may all have become accustomed to hand car wash services, nail bars and sub-contracted work forces, but perhaps we have inadvertently become de-sensitised to risk.

“While services may be in plain sight, less obvious but not invisible is the degree of threat, intimidation and control calculated to ensure victims implicitly follow instructions and do not disclose their plight to anyone enquiring.”

downloadRichard Lancashire is the force’s Modern Slavery Manager, who is funded by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne. His expertise supports and trains officers in safeguarding victims and helping target the right offenders.

During the week leading up to the day Richard is also working with local authorities across Sussex to train selected staff to recognise modern slavery and spread knowledge amongst their colleagues.

This year, Sussex Police has already undertaken 11 operations and there are currently 63 ongoing investigations with suspects or crime groups involved in Modern Slavery, with potential victims originating from both the UK and overseas. 41 people have so far been arrested.

If you think you have information that might identify or locate a potential victim or suspect for modern slavery, or someone you know is a victim of modern slavery, or even a location where you think exploitation might be happening, please report it online or call us on 101 (always call 999 in an emergency).

You can also contact the national Modern Slavery helpline on 08000 121 700 or the Salvation Army Modern Slavery helpline on 0300 303 8151, or the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

The Sussex Police website also provides more help and guidance.

The Modern Slavery Act 2010 introduced a national day to raise awareness of the need to eradicate all forms of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.

The national day is co-ordinated by the charity Human Trafficking Foundation (HTF) with trustees including the founder, Anthony Steen CBE, the Rt Hon Baroness Butler–Sloss, the Rt Hon Sir John Randall, the Rt Hon David Heathcoat-Amory and Vernon Coaker MP. The HTF was created following the all-party parliamentary group report on on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

The Act categorises offences of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. Although human trafficking often involves an international cross-border element, it is also possible to be a victim of modern slavery within your own country, says a Sussex Police spokesman.

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