THE Archbishop of York has urged the people of Yorkshire to help shine a spotlight on modern-day slavery in the region after describing the emerging form of criminality as “an abomination in our time”.
Speaking ahead of national Anti-Slavery Day tomorrow, Dr John Sentamu said police were “working determinedly to eradicate human trafficking in our region” and called on residents to help them identify cases of exploitation.
Yorkshire’s four police forces say they finding growing numbers of trafficking and forced labour victims, though the trade in human misery is often invisible as it goes on away from society’s view.
A human trafficking expert at the Salvation Army said this week that victims of exploitation could be “washing our cars, paving our driveways or doing our manicures” having been forced to work for a pittance by criminal gangs.
And earlier this summer, The Yorkshire Post reported fears that victims of human trafficking and forced labour are going undetected across the region as members of the public and local authorities fail to recognise the problem going on in front of them.
Dr Sentamu said in a statement: “I am glad that the police in Yorkshire and the Humber are working determinedly to eradicate human trafficking in our region.
“The exploitation of vulnerable people for low-paid labour that is tantamount to slavery is an abomination in our time.
“Ghandi once said that ‘The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members’.
“I am sure that the people of Yorkshire and the Humber will respond to the police’s request for help in identifying instances of human trafficking with a view to helping those who are so ill-treated”.
Human trafficking and labour exploitation is said to be the second most profitable form of criminality after drug production, with almost 880,000 people forced to work in slave labour conditions across Europe.
Latest figures from the National Crime Agency in September suggest the number of suspected victims in the UK has risen sharply to nearly 2,750 in the first 10 months of the year.
North Yorkshire Police today released a list of possible signs that someone could be a victim of trafficking or forced labour.
It said in a statement: “More than two hundred years have passed since William Wilberforce successfully led in abolishing the slave trade in Britain. However, slavery still exists in society, although it is now largely invisible.
“It continues in private homes, factories and on farms, as well as in brothels and on the streets of our towns and cities. Victims of modern slavery are often trapped by forces more subtle than lock and key, often hidden in plain sight.
“Cases of modern slavery are being encountered on an increasing basis by police officers across the Yorkshire and Humber region, which are reflective of those nationwide.
“Not restricted to metropolitan or urban areas, police are also being alerted to crimes occurring in our rural areas. Locations have included agricultural communities, car washes, nail bars and brothels.”
Earlier this year, a leading academic told The Yorkshire Post that official statistics about the numbers of people forced into miserable working conditions or trafficked into the country to be exploited in the region “hugely understate the scale of the problem”.
It is feared many victims are being put into slavery, forced labour and sexual exploitation in rural North and East Yorkshire, where the number of remote locations make it easier to hide from the authorities.
Detective Superintendent Steve Smith of North Yorkshire Police said: “The public and other organisations play a critical role in helping us find victims of human trafficking. We need that information to help identify those amongst us who are victims.
“The four Yorkshire regional police forces continue to develop our individual and collective approach in working to rescue victims and identify and arrest offenders.
“If you have any information or suspicions about people who are the victims of slavery I urge you to contact North Yorkshire Police or Crimestoppers straight away.”
Among the signs of possible slavery victims are:
- Not having a passport or other means of identification
- They are withdrawn and refuse to talk to, or appear afraid to talk, a person in authority
- They are unable, or reluctant to give details of accommodation or other personal details
- They work in various locations
- Having limited freedom of movement
- They perform excessive housework chores and rarely leaves the residence
- They have low or no salary or are permanently deprived of a large part of their earnings by another person
- Being escorted whenever they go and or return from work and other activities
- They work long hours or have few, if any, days off
- They sleep where they work
- They have no privacy, sleeping in shared and over-crowded spaces
- Security measures are in place to keep them at the work place, for example locked doors and windows
- They are not dressed properly for the work they do, for example they don’t have protective equipment or warm clothes