Across East and West Sussex, in rural as well as urban areas, there is a hidden problem of both economic and sexual exploitation.
The Diocese of Chichester has been involved by raising awareness of the issues and helping parishes understand how to report concerns.
One of the organisations working to help tackle the issues and resource local response are:
The Clewer Initiative enables Church of England and wider church networks to detect modern slavery in their communities and help provide victim support and care. There are a number of excellent resources on their website that can be used by churches towards awareness raising.
The Home Office estimates that there are up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. Modern slavery is an umbrella term for all forms of slavery, trafficking, and exploitation.
At the core of this crime is deception. Survivors of modern slavery tell stories of being sold a better life. They are often vulnerable, coming from areas where there is little possibility of work. They are offered a job, a chance to make money and build a new life for themselves. Those who offer them this opportunity may even organise their travel to a different country, controlling every aspect of their trip.
The job they were offered turns out to be a lie. Instead they are forced to work in difficult and degrading conditions, with little or no pay. The threat of violence, to themselves or their families, hangs over them and traps them in their situation. Even if they aren’t completely physically controlled by their trafficker, a mistrust of authority may stop them from going to the police.
This is the reality for 13,000 men, women and children in the UK. Modern slavery knows no borders, and people of all ages and races can be victims. In the UK in 2016, the most common nationalities of victims were Albanian, Vietnamese, and British.
Forms of exploitation
In 2016 this was the most common form of exploitation amongst victims in the UK. Victims of forced labour are made to work long hours, often in hard conditions, without relevant training and equipment. They are forced to hand over the majority, if not all, of their wages to their traffickers. In many cases victims are subjected to verbal threats or violence and often large numbers of people are kept in the same house in horrible conditions.
Cases of labour exploitation have been widely reported in car washes and nail bars, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Victims have also been found in the manufacturing, travel, farming, and construction industries.
Labour exploitation can sometimes mean criminal exploitation, where victims are forced to commit crimes. For example, where they are forced to pickpocket, or made to work on a cannabis farm, tending the plants.
Sexual exploitation involves any non-consensual or abusive sexual acts performed without a victim’s permission. This could be prostitution, escort work, or pornography. Women, men and children of both sexes can be victims. Many will be controlled through violence and abuse.
Victims of domestic servitude are forced to work in a private household. Their movement will often be restricted, and they will have to perform household tasks like childcare and house-keeping over long hours and for little, if any, pay. In rare circumstances where victims receive a wage it will be heavily reduced, as they are often charged for food and accommodation.
Victims will lead isolated lives and have little or no unsupervised freedom. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor.
Organ trafficking is one aspect of the trade in human organs. Traffickers might force or deceive their victims into giving up an organ. Or victims might agree to sell an organ but then are not paid or are paid less than the promised price. Sometimes, victims are treated for an illness, which may or may not exist, and their organs are removed without their knowledge.
Organs which are commonly traded are kidneys and livers; any organ which can be removed and used, could be traded. It is rare in the UK, but there have been occasional cases.
Other organisations are:
Stop the Traffik is a national organisation working to link groups and resource local action.
The Salvation Army work closely with the government to help people out of slavery and their website is helpful when spotting the signs in local communities.
The Modern Slavery helpline is a national tool to help the reporting of concerns identified in local communities.