Modern Day Slavery
Are you aware of slaves in the 21st Century? Shockingly there are more human slaves in the world than ever before. Despite this, you may have a stereotypical view of what a human slave is and because of this, you could be unaware that there is maybe one in your local nail bar or even your favourite take away. Surprisingly this type of abuse is prevalent in the UK and in order to tackle this problem, we all need to have a deeper understanding of this issue. In my view, this is one of the greatest atrocities in modern times and through better understanding, we as a society, can do more to help eradicate this problem and release those in bondage.
Firstly, 30,000 victims of human trafficking die every year from abuse, disease, torture and neglect. Unfortunately victims tend to come from poor countries such as China, Vietnam, Russia and Eastern Europe and are promised a better life for themselves and the ability to earn enough money to send home to their families. They are often not speakers of English, which makes them even more vulnerable because they have to rely on their captors for everything such as accommodation, food and most of the basic needs required by a functioning human.
They endure terrible and life threatening transit to the UK, often hidden in shipping containers or in lorries, with little food or water. The conditions are cramped and there is no sanitation. Once here, they are at the mercy of their captors. Some have huge debts to pay off, for bringing them to the UK. One thing is for sure, they are unlikely to have any way of going to the authorities, due to language difficulties and fear, not only for themselves for the family they have left behind.
Imagine, the emotional burden of leaving your home land, in search of a better life and to better the life of your whole family, only to discover that you have swapped one hell for another? Yes, these people come to the UK illegally, however, their motivation, in many cases is desperation. The countries they come from have no benefits system or national health service to fall back on, so escape to a country where life is better seems like their only way out. Often these modern salves are young and usually they are always vulnerable in some way. They do not understand their rights or the level of protection they would have if they went to the authorities in the UK. They see their only way out as working for next to nothing, for long hours and doing exactly what their captor tells them. The threat of harming their family back home, looms over them regularly, as a way of keeping them compliant in other words “slaves”.
Nevertheless, human trafficking is not just exclusive to adults, as we may assume. Children as young as six are being trafficked and forced into slavery, dreadfully often with the consent of their parents. Imagine your daughter or granddaughter being sent out to work to provide for your family, at only six years old, when she should just be starting school? Its seems unthinkable doesn’t it? This is a reality for many hundreds of children and again, this is driven by extreme poverty and desperation. It seems so cruel that their childhoods are destroyed and 71% of these children show suicidal tendencies, which is a heart-breaking statistic. It is shocking and what is worse, neither you nor I see this. We only see what we know to look for. With our stereotypical view of slaves we only look for the most drastic signals of neglect and suffering, yet slaves are sheep in wolves clothing dressed up by their captors as something as simple as a take away driver. There disguise fools you or I, just as the slaves confiner wants. It is time that we opened our eyes and really look at what is happening all around is. We need to ask questions and shine a light on this problem. Raising awareness of how big this issue is has to be central to tackling the problem.
In 2015 the Modern Day Slavery Act was put in place to try and implement measures to ensure that those responsible for human trafficking are adequately punished. In a BBC documentary, following the first prosecution under the new act, Erin Cutlet, Senior Crown Prosecutor in the Complex Case Unit, said, “Modern day slavery, is very clever and can be done very publicly.” Prosecutions can be difficult due to the vulnerability and fear of key witnesses, however, there have been successful prosecutions and hopefully more to follow.
Being forced to work in a nail bar, may not seem all that bad but there are children and young people, forced into sex slavery, where they are abused multiple times a day by whomever pays their captor, they are sexually, physically and mentally tortured on a daily basis and they often turn to drink or drugs as a way to cope. The statistics on this are less well known for the numbers of victims and clearly this is the darker side of modern day slavery but awareness is crucial so that those involved and brought to justice. There are harrowing accounts of very young people who have been forced into sex slavery and the tragedy of it all is that all they wanted to do was to get work and support their family at home. There is a common misconception that Abusers in the UK go abroad to these poor countries in search of people to exploit and due to the inadequacies of the law and protective services, abuse happens. It is still not acceptable but there is an idea that it is happening far away, so what can we do to change it? This is happening in our own country and it could be happening in our own towns and cities. We cannot stand by and allow the horrific mistreatment of children and vulnerable adults to go on in this country. Again, we must shine a light on this uncomfortable truth, in order to eradicated it. It shouldn’t matter the legalities of how someone came to be here. Their rights as a human must come first.
In conclusion; the next time you are having your nails done, or you go to your local take away, speak to the people serving you. Ask questions, find out about them and report any concerns to the authorities. If we all have the mentality that, “it’s not my problem,” then nothing will change and this problem will increase. The only people profiting are the criminal gangs. We must all take collective responsibility for voicing our concerns. Businesses who are operating ethically, have nothing to fear. I want our country to deal with the criminals and support the victims. I think it is wrong for us to view this as these people chose to do something illegal in coming to this country and use that as a reason to turn our heads the other way. That is so wrong. These people were not trying to profit from a scam, they wanted to come here and work. They wanted to make life better for their family. They were desperate and made a wrong choice but that doesn’t mean they deserve what they get and should just be left to suffer. We should be extending a hand of support and yes, that may mean that people are deported back to their own country as a result but doing nothing and turning a blind eye wont make the problem go away. I want to be part of a society where people are treated fairly and with dignity and respect and in order for that to happen, we must all open our eyes and see what is hidden in plain sight; Modern Day Slavery.