UK & World News

  • 4 May 2014, 22:28

Slavery Becomes 'Big Business' In Britain

The number of people being used as "slaves" in the UK is increasing, according to a charity.

Hope for Justice, which campaigns against human trafficking, says the problem of forced labour, domestic servitude, and sexual exploitation is a "massive" problem in Britain.

Sky News has obtained Freedom of Information figures showing that within the last three years 336 "slavery" offences were investigated by police in the UK.

Allan Doherty, the head of operations for Hope for Justice, says the statistics are not a true representation of the problem.

"On estimate it must be at least 10 times that, and that is just for the number of offences being investigated by law enforcement agencies.

"The actual number of trafficking victims is probably 100 times that again, because at least 90% of victims probably never even come to the attention of authorities or charities such as ours because it's such a hidden crime."

The freedom of information figures show that out of 336 offences, 170 were investigated by the Metropolitan Police in London, and 88 in Scotland - both have dedicated human trafficking units.

One reason given for the low figure released under the Freedom of Information Act is the way in which crimes are recorded. Often the more serious offence, such as rape or assault, is logged instead.

Hope for Justice also says that in the past front line services have not recognised the signs of trafficking but the situation is getting better.

Last year alone, the charity trained up to 700 police officers and social services staff to spot the characteristics displayed by trafficking victims.

In a statement the Minister for Slavery and Organised Crime, Karen Bradley, said the Government is doing everything within its power "to stamp out the evil in our midst".

"The Government is introducing a Modern Slavery Bill, the first of its kind in Europe. We have set up an international group of Police - the Santa Marta Group - so that we can work internationally to stamp out this very complex crime.

"The Bill will ensure that victims are protected and that slave drivers will for the first time face life imprisonment.

"Work is being done to establish a better intelligence picture of the scale of this horrendous crime, and our chief scientist is looking at how we can gather an improved picture of what we are dealing with."

Pavel, who wanted to remain anonymous, was brought over to the UK and became a victim of slavery.

He was forced to work seven days a week in a car wash for no pay, one meal a day, and had to sleep on the floor with two other men, also slaves, in the same room.

"I feel embarrassed to talk about it because I felt terrible. It's somehow impossible to describe, feeling worthlessness, losing my confidence, losing my pride - you feel abused and they treat you like a thing, without any feelings. Every word they say is false."

Pavel lived with the threat of violence and said that one of the other slaves, who had learning difficulties, was also treated as a "maid" within the house.

"He was cleaning their rooms, and he was bringing shopping bags up. He was just their slave.

"Even the police don't know where he ended up, he just disappeared somewhere and no one knows where he is, so I think about him a lot."

Ben Cooley, CEO of Hope for Justice, says modern day slavery is big business in the UK, seen as low risk, often cash in hand, and high profit.

"These traffickers, these slave owners in our country, will find any avenue to raise money, to make money, whether it be rape for profit, forced labour for profit, whether it be domestic servitude.

"They are in it to get money, and they are doing very well out of it. We have rescued victims who have actually made, in a matter of months, 15,000 profit."

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