Thursday, 6 April 2017

End Slavery in the UK

Nottingham University is running a Stay Safe From Slavery  conference on June 21st as the city works toward becoming a slavery free city. The conference will focus on prevention while the city-wide campaign focuses on local initiative and joined up action across agencies to identify and assist those caught up in slavery. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham has also been running training events during the year to raise awareness of the presence of slaves in the area - how can we see what is in front of our eyes more clearly, notice people who may be enslaved and help the 'slave next door'? 

I attended one of the events run by the Diocese of Nottingham recently and was impressed by the approach being taken. The plan is to train as many people as will come this year, helping us to understand the issues and, indeed, acknowledge that there is such a thing as modern day slavery in Britain. Next year, the plan is to move on to working with organisations by bringing them together to combat this real twenty first century evil more effectively.

It's estimated that there may be 13,000 people enslaved in this country. Modern day slavery affects people of many nationalities including British citizens. They may be subject to domestic servitude, forced labour, criminal or sexual exploitation. Other kinds of exploitation involve forced begging, forced marriage, illegal adoption and organ removal. Some are children.

We might think that there is no slavery in our own neighbourhood. It's often well hidden but it may be present across industries and sectors we are familiar with. Slaves have been identified in most regions in 'jobs' such as domestic service, laying drive ways, cleaning vehicles, serving at nail bars and more generally in the beauty industry, in manufacturing, hospitality, agriculture, food packaging and preparation, and as sex workers.  

Recognise the signs
People may
  • avoid eye contact and social contact
  • look withdrawn or frightened
  • refuse to get into conversation
  • look malnourished and unkempt
  • have few personal possessions
  • often wear the same clothes
  • be dropped off at a location regularly, early or late
  • appear unfamiliar with the neighbourhood
  • seem under control with little opportunity to move around freely
  • might sleep and work at the same address
  • might seem to go out seldom
  • live in premises with obscured windows, poor access, heavy security, visitors warned off
  • show signs of physical or psychological abuse 
  • have little or no access to money

Since doing the training, I have been much more careful to think about the people I meet asking to wash my car, do unsought work on our house and garden, and those who serve me food and other goods. It's also important to ask retail suppliers where they get their goods and under what standards they have been produced. Nottingham is slowly working to eradicate slavery from all contracts and supply chains within the city.

If you suspect that you have met victims of slavery, it will almost certainly be difficult or impossible to talk to them directly about their situation. However you can report your observations anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800555111

The Salvation Army have a 24 hour confidential referral line for those who have escaped servitude and need urgent assistance on 03003038151 click on 'Ways We Help'

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