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Fighting modern slavery in Cambridgeshire

Dozens of modern slavery cases recorded in Cambridgeshire (11471387)
Dozens of modern slavery cases recorded in Cambridgeshire (11471387)

Modern slavery is a growing phenomenon in the Western world, and it's probably happening more frequently and closer to home than you realise.

Across Cambridgeshire in 2018, the Modern Slavery Helpline recorded 22 cases - a 38 per cent increasefrom 2017 - with the majority involving labour exploitation. Also last year, 85 potential victims were indicated to be exploited in various sectors, including car washes, shops and recruitment agencies.

In 2018, the helpline received 6,000 calls and 1,400 online reports, indicating more than 7,000 potential victims of modern slavery of 94 different nationalities. These calls indicated approximately 1,850 cases of modern slavery in the UK, involving labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and criminal exploitation. In 2018, the helpline 3,300 referrals and signposts to police, local authorities and other organisations.

At a recent conference organised by the Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking (CCARHT), the audience at Cambridge Judge Business School was invited to explore the obstacles involved in responding to human trafficking and modern slavery in all its global and local aspects.

"The symposium went really well," says CCARHT's development director, Dr Carrie Pemberton Ford. "Over sixty experts from across the world were speaking on issues around human trafficking, and the different forms it manifests, plus the political, social and even philosophical challenges.

"It is a hugely complex issue, and yet we need to make accessible the account of how it occurs, where it is happening, and how to put a sustained and effective response to this international travesty which claims millions of peoples lives globally, and thousands across UK construction, food processing, domestic help, care, hospitality, sexual services, agricultural harvesting, cannabis factoriesand even fisheries sector. That is a big challenge.And it is one which the annual work of the symposium is committed to.

"We need to ask what does exploitation look like? Where are trafficked persons going to be found? Who and why are people purchasing these ‘commodified lives’ , and how people are recruited into this form of profound exploitation in the first place? Across the symposium we were exploring at a deeper level what is going on in our businesses, economic processes, international relations and social safeguarding which is permitting human trafficking and modern slavery like practices to operate.As Dr Simon Stockley said at the event: ‘Traffickers are playing the gaps in our economic, protection and governance system’ and they do this both under the radar and in plain sight’."

The symposium, now in its fourth year, was titled: 'The Several Rs of Trafficking', which include research, risks and rewards, refugees, returns, removals, rights, remedy, reparation, reporting, response and religion.

One of the speakers was Rachel Harper from the anti-slavery charity Unseen, who run the Modern Slavery Helpline. Rachel's presentation was on the importance, methodology and learnings regarding reporting and recording information – a key helpline role.

Police recently obtained a court order against a Fenland car wash to safeguard against human trafficking
Police recently obtained a court order against a Fenland car wash to safeguard against human trafficking

Unseen’s mission is "working towards a world without slavery". The organisation works across sectors in partnership with communities, business, governments and other charities. Unseen runs safe houses for male and female survivors and operates the Modern Slavery Helpline (08000 121 700) a free national service for victims, frontline professionals and members of the public. As a confidential, independent service available 24/7, the helpline provides support and guidance to callers, including those who might be scared to engage with authorities. It offers translation services, so that individuals can engage in their first language ensuring that they get advice and information they can understand.

Unseen specifically works collaboratively in Cambridgeshire attending modern slavery events, running stalls and distributing resources, such as at the launch of “Community Eyes and Ears”, an event set up by the Community Safety Partnership in East Cambridgeshire in September last year. In June 2018, Unseen attended the Victim Services Provider Forum at Cambridgeshire Police HQ, a cross-sector event focusing on the impact of victim trauma and vulnerabilities. Unseen also chairs the Eastern Region Anti-Slavery Partnership, a collaborative project involving Cambridgeshire Constabulary and six other police forces. Efforts to join up investigations, awareness campaigns and responses across the Eastern Region should yield more effective, better-informed prevention efforts and responses.

Nearly half of all victims of modern slavery identified in the UK in 2018 were children, most of them were British and had been trafficked within the UK. The number of child victims is increasing each year, with minor victims commonly criminally exploited via “county lines” (a term used when gangs from larger cities expand their operations, often using children to transport and sell drugs); child trafficking victims also suffer sexual exploitation. In order to raise more awareness amongst young people, Unseen has piloted an interactive programme for young people, Spotlight. These sessions increase teenagers’ resiliency to exploitation by raising awareness of the various mechanisms that traffickers use to exploit young people, such as grooming and discussing how to respond. If you would like to learn more about Spotlight or find out about how to bring a session to your school or organisation, contact Unseen.

Meanwhile CCARHT's work in the area is also ongoing and Dr Ford says progress is being made.

"Safe housing has been really taken forward as a response in Britain with a whole range of recovery houses available managed through the Salvation Army as the recipient of the Government Contract in this area. We still have some way to go to understand the full impact on people’s mental, physical and social lives in undergoing trafficked exploitation, and to secure accountability through sustained government response in securing resources to enable that recovery, and ongoing re-integration for survivors of this travesty," she says. "But because we are a think-tank we look at trying to influence government policy and we're currently busy assessing the recommendations.

"We've been going for ten years now and although we are based in Cambridge we have network links with Romania, Nigeria, with Moldova, we're building stronger links with Scandanavia and India, and also in Australia."

Check the Global Slavery Index for further information.

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