Traffickers photograph women being gang raped in order to force them in to the sex trade
Some of up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery are being “failed” by “chronic weakness” in police responses to their plight, the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner has warned.
Kevin Hyland has used his first annual report to issue stinging criticism of a series of police failings which he says could be allowing organised crime groups behind slavery and people trafficking “to act with impunity.”
The report, presented to Parliament on Wednesday, stated that “chronic weaknesses in modern slavery crime reporting ”, plus “a lack of intelligence reporting and evidence-based operational action” meant “victims both present and future are being failed”.
In some police force areas, Mr Hyland added, slavery victims were just being “lost” in the system.
Mr Hyland also reported that some British companies were still engaging in little more than “box ticking” when claiming their supply chains were slavery-free, and raised fears that the migration crisis and refugee camps like the Calais Jungle were being exploited by traffickers to enslave the vulnerable.
His criticisms come weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May announced the creation of a new task force involving the police, MI5 and MI6, aimed at ridding the world of what she called “the evil” of modern slavery.
Professor Bernard Silverman, the Chief Scientific Advisor to the Home Office, has estimated that at any one time there may be between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK.
They can be lured to the UK with promises of a better life, only to find themselves so heavily indebted to those who transport them that they effectively have to work for their traffickers for nothing.
Traffickers have been known to photograph women being gang raped in order to force them to work in the sex trade under the threat of having the pictures shown to conservative family and friends back in their home countries.
In what one law enforcement official called “blackmail nicely packaged as traditional ritual”, Nigerian children have been terrified into submission by “juju” ceremonies where a “witch doctor” takes hair or blood from the victim and says they will die or fall horribly ill if they fail to obey their traffickers.
Vulnerable UK residents – particularly the homeless and youngsters in care – can also find themselves being trafficked within Britain, either for forced labour, or, in so-called “grooming” cases, for sexual abuse.
Law enforcement agencies have found victims of modern slavery providing a vast range of goods and services bought by unsuspecting UK customers. They have been found on the fringes of the UK food production industry, working in pop-up car washes and even delivering pizzas. Children from Vietnam are being forced to work in atrocious conditions in illegal cannabis farms hidden in suburban houses.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 introduced life sentences for anyone convicted of slavery or trafficking offences in an attempt to change the nature of what many offenders viewed as a “high profit, low risk crime”.
But in his annual report, Mr Hyland highlighted continuing “inadequacies” in modern slavery crime recording that “could allow organised crime groups to act with impunity.”
He said that while the UK’s modern slavery National Referral Mechanism (NRM) identified 3,146 potential victims in the financial year 2015-16, English and Welsh police forces recorded only 884 modern slavery crimes.
This, he said, meant that “at best” 28 per cent of referrals to the NRM in the past financial year had resulted in a modern slavery crime being recorded by police in England and Wales.
Independent News Service