The reality of modern slavery and human trafficking

There are many people in need throughout our diocese for whom life has become increasingly more challenging because of the combined effects of the Pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The well-publicised ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ is impacting daily life for parishioners and many others within our parish boundaries.

One area where those in genuine need are being shockingly exploited is concerning modern slavery and human trafficking. The reality is that there is now a record number of modern slavery victims in the UK.

Significant numbers of people across the diocese and in every one of our parishes are being held in squalor and undertaking forced labour. Some may be fleeing war zones, and others may have financial problems, but all of their lives are currently one of fear, debt, and violence, with escape impossible, forbidden or severely punished.

As reported by Care in March 2022 there is now a record number of modern slavery victims in the UK, this is the highest level in more than a decade.  

What is happening? 

Vulnerable people are lured in by false promises, ranging from financial promises, to being told they will be given a better life, and they end up working 18-hour days doing hard labor, for little to no money.

Girls of all ages are coerced into sexual slavery, unable to escape, or trapped in domestic servitude, looking after children 24/7 with no breaks, little food and sleep, and no pay. Often people are trafficked across borders, so language can become a barrier to them seeking help, and it is taking place in our towns and communities. Victims could be anyone; in fact, we probably pass them by all the time. They could be the woman you walk by in the street, the quiet young man sitting at the back of church, the friend of a friend who never leaves the house, the coworker no one speaks to, who’s always at work… It’s all around us. And learning the signs will enable us to spot it, and stop it

What can we do? 

The first step to fighting human trafficking is to learn about it, as we can’t fight an evil we don’t know. You may be thinking “But it’s such a big problem! What can I, just one person, do to stop it?”.

But the truth is, educating yourself and starting the conversation amongst your family and friends means that trafficking stops being a taboo issue that only happens on the other side of the world, and our society starts to become more aware of its existence here in the UK and in our diocese. Traffickers prey on people’s poverty, so by caring for the most vulnerable in our communities, we are also fighting human trafficking. You can do this by volunteering at your local foodbank, visiting the lonely, volunteering to help aid refugees as they arrive in the UK, and so many other ways! By building strong, caring, and educated communities, we are starting to engage in and challenge the war on human trafficking.  

Some Facts and Figures

(unseenuk.org / gov.uk)

People thought to be in modern slavery in the UK

%

Increase in UK potential victims identified in 2021

Million people worldwide in modern slavery

%

Of global victims of modern slavery are children

Million people in forced labour worldwide

%

Of potential victims in 2020 were UK nationals

Pope Francis

Pope Francis described human trafficking as a “crime against humanity“. Jesus calls us to love radically, and that includes fighting injustices that threaten especially the most vulnerable in our society (e.g. those who have immigrated, and those suffering from poverty or homelessness). As Catholics, we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world; engaging in the fight against human trafficking is a perfect and right way of doing this.

Spotting the signs – What to look out for

Appearance

There is no “stereotypical” or “typical” victim of human trafficking; they could be anyone. However, some pointers could be that they look malnourished and withdrawn, unkempt, have poor hygiene, only have access to one or two sets of clothes, or that their clothing is not suitable for work 

Belongings

No access to their legal documents, or have no personal belongings, no mobile phone, or no means to top it up.  

Accommodation

Poor or sub-standard accommodation, victims could potentially live at work, or not know their home address, or be prevented from giving it out, shared or crowded housing. 

Work conditions

There will most likely be no contract involved, long hours and little to no pay (if so, they would be paid in cash), forced to work in inappropriate conditions, sex work or hard labor are common, unable to negotiate hours or location, victims could seem reluctant to take time off when prompted to by coworkers. 

Isolation

Victims often cannot interact or communicate with others, whether it’s due to language barriers, or because they are banned by their traffickers. Traffickers ensure their isolation stops them from seeking help, so being that friendly face and asking someone how they are, could make a huge difference in someone’s life.  

Finances

Victims often will not have access to their earning or not receive payslips, they could be disciplined through fines; traffickers also like to give the perception they are bonded by debt. In some cases, they could be forced to sign documents like social security, or bank accounts/ loans may have been taken out in the victims’ names without their awareness or consent.  

Fear

Victims are often fearful and anxious, they could be threatened with being handed over to the authorities (especially if the nature of the trafficking involves being forced to commit crimes), or threatened with violence, there could even be threats against their loved ones.  

Crime

Forced to commit crimes by gangs, forced to steal or scavenge for their food.  

Travel

Victims of human trafficking often have restricted movement, not being allowed to travel by themselves, seeming to be under the control of someone else, travelling everyday with the same people. 

Get in Touch. Get Involved.

If you would like to know more about the work of Caritas Northampton and how you could get involved please contact us on 01604 434362 or by email to caritas@northamptondiocese.org or by using the form below. 

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