I recently had the pleasure of speaking on a virtual conference on the subject matter of ‘Safeguarding those who may have been Trafficked’.  Issues raised from the conference highlighted the issue of language barriers and the lack of use of interpreters. I perceived the issue of language slightly differently, in that so often the language of safeguarding does not seem to include modern slavery and trafficking as a dominant issue within safeguarding training frameworks. Now, more than ever, we must step up our safeguarding awareness due to the pandemic and national policies appear to be closing more doors to access health or social care for those that are vulnerable. We must never forget that the adults, children and/or families, that are often subject to unthinkable and harrowing experiences, are first and foremost human beings, all of whom have the right to be safeguarded from harm and exploitation.  

I also wanted to bring this conversation to those within the housing sector and how safeguarding, housing, modern slavery and trafficking are all parts of the same sphere. Notwithstanding that they can all stand as individual components, but I believe more should be included within training to highlight how they are interlinked and connected.  

Trafficking is a serious crime and an absolute violation of a person’s human rights. It is estimated that approximately 2.5 million people worldwide have been trafficked and who are currently enslaved and exploited. Trafficking and modern slavery is a multi-billion-pound industry, blighting most countries worldwide, whether they are the place origin, destination or transit. 

No matter if the accommodation is privately rented, owned by housing associations or unoccupied stock, there are some common features that may suggest trafficking activity or the false imprisonment of individuals is taking place. 

Complaints about overcrowding, noise levels, smells and lighting, as well as frequent visitors, could provide you with a trigger to consider this area of exploitation. 

Other signs that someone is being trafficked and forced to work may be that they: – 

  • appear to be under the control of someone else and reluctant to interact with others 
  • do not have personal identification on them 
  • have few personal belongings, wear the same clothes every day or wear unsuitable clothes for work 
  • are not able to move around freely 
  • are reluctant to talk to strangers or the authorities 
  • appear frightened, withdrawn, or show signs of physical or psychological abuse 
  • are dropped off and collected for work always in the same way, especially at unusual times, i.e. very early or late at night 
  • look scruffy, malnourished or injured 

https://www.antislavery.org/slavery-today/spot-the-signs-of-slavery/ 

Research indicates that migrants arrested for attending to plants in the flats, houses and attics where cannabis is grown in bulk are often victims of trafficking and ‘debt bondage’ yet many are not recognised as such by police. 

https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/cannabis-farms-are-a-modern-slavery-blind-spot-for-uk-police-study-suggests 

A further viewpoint is that tenants do not receive training unlike front-line practitioners. However, I advocate that best practice would be to include raising awareness with your tenants to spot the signs and report anything they feel is suspicious or doesn’t feel right. We need help from every tenant to report any concerns, therefore tenants also need access to information and helplines.  

Useful links:  

Salvation Army – involvement The National Referral Mechanism  

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/human-trafficking-victims-referral-and-assessment-forms 

https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/modern-slavery/spot-signs 

Further advice and support 

Modern Slavery Helpline 
Information and advice on modern slavery. 

The Salvation Army 
Immediate and intensive support to ensure victims of trafficking are given the best possible chance of recovery. 

Migrant Help 
Support services for adult victims of human trafficking.    

Kalayaan 
Advice, advocacy and support services for migrant domestic workers. 

Medaille Trust 
Helps women, young men and children who have been freed from human trafficking. 

 

I would like to thank Dr Jane Hunt of the Helen Bamber Foundation, who is not only very knowledgeable in this area, but gave me the inspiration for this blog.