To recognise Anti-Slavery Day 2020, Ian Fiddes, Project Lead for Liberty, shares an update on Modern Slavery and the work his team have been doing.
There are certain images that spring into everyone’s mind when slavery is discussed. The images are usually of horrific historical events and it is very difficult to comprehend the cruelty inflicted on thousands of men, women and children.
Yet slavery still exists today in every corner of the world. ‘Modern Slavery’ has many forms and to put it into very simple terms, it is the exploitation of the vulnerable.
It could be a young person trafficked into the UK and forced to work in a brothel, a cannabis farm or as a domestic slave. It could be someone working in a takeaway or on a building site for little or no wage, living in slum-like conditions, with no recourse to health and safety or employment law.
It could be a child forced into carrying drugs from one place to another in an attempt by their perpetrators to evade law enforcement, or it could be someone forced into begging on the street.
It could be a neighbour whose house has been occupied by criminals to deal in drugs, or as a place to sort goods stolen by their shoplifting gangs.
The circumstances are wide reaching and victims often suffer more than one form of exploitation. Perpetrators identify vulnerability for their own gain and seek to profit in any way they can. The people they control not only lose their financial independence, but can also lose their way of life, their family and their friends. Victims do not have choices and are subject to threats and physical harm to ensure they do as they are told.
There may be up to one hundred thousand people (100k) experiencing modern slavery in the UK today according to the most recent estimate.
Changing Lives has always been at the forefront when people need support. The Liberty Project specifically supports those subjected to modern slavery. We will continue to address every form of exploitation the individual has encountered, enabling coordinated support from services within Changing Lives and working with all our external partners. The Project is funded until 2023,by the National Lottery Community Fund and Northumbria Police PCC.
As part of the project, we have established the Liberty Strategic Group to bring together a vast pool of experience and expertise to form an anti-slavery partnership. The Group aims to find solutions to the problems associated with modern slavery and exploitation; to open channels of communication; to assist efforts whether it be operational or strategic and to ensure national issues are explored and adapted.
The terrible slave trade of the 17th and 18th centuries occurred in plain sight. Plantation owners, ship owners and slave traders on three Trans-Atlantic continents operated as they wished. Today, the circumstances are very different – perpetrators exploit people in the shadows, hiding behind ‘legitimate’ businesses or relying on victims being too frightened to ask for help.
Anti-Slavery Day is a timely reminder for us all. It is a basic human right to be able to live and work free from exploitation and abuse.
Read Tim’s story of modern slavery in the North East of England here.
If you think you have experienced Modern Slavery, or are worried about someone else, please do not hesitate to contact us.