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Slavery in the UK

When we think about modern day slavery, we might imagine that it only happens in foreign countries, but slavery still thrives in the UK today.

British Government estimates that there are around 13,000 people in modern day slavery in the UK today.

Over 3,000 people, including nearly 1,000 children, were referred to British authorities as potential victims of slavery in 2015, a 40% increase on the previous year.

The most common countries of origin were from Albania, Nigeria and Vietnam.  However there was also a significant number of British nationals referred as potential victims, which put the UK as the fifth most common country of origin for referrals. 

Forced labour is the most common purpose of trafficking is forced labour in industries such as agriculture, construction and hospitality. Significant portion of people, vast majority of whom are women and girls, are trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Many people - mostly women and girls – end up in domestic slavery, others – especially children - are being forced into criminal activities such as cannabis production, petty thefts, or begging.

"Only 1% of victims of slavery have a chance to see their exploiter brought to justice."*

Modern slavery has been getting increasingly more attention both from the mainstream media and the government, which culminated with passing the Modern Slavery Act in 2015.

The Act was a step in the right direction and included some good measures to tackle slavery in the UK and n global supply chains of large UK companies.

However, much remains to be done. Our research has indicated that, the system fails to systematically identify, assist and protect victims of trafficking.

Victim identification and protection is a crucial element of any system responding to modern slavery. Not only the victims of often a traumatic crime have a right to be protected and supported so they can put their lives back on track, but also supporting the victim so that they can work with authorities and act as witnesses in court is extremely important to prosecute the perpetrators.

An example of the lack of such protection is legally preventing overseas domestic workers to leave an abusive employer and seek another one, which creates perfect conditions for slavery.

* Quote from Kevin Hyland, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

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portrait of Louisiana"They made me water cannabis plants to pay off the debt."                         
Read Hai's* story

portrait of Jiera  "I was trafficked  from my home country Lithuania when I was 17."
Read her story

©Karen Robinson/Panos Pictures