Modern slavery: How you can help bring this curse to an end

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Londoners have the power to help stop modern slavery through a new action platform launched by the Evening Standard.

Crafted with anti-slavery advocates Freedom United, the innovative online tool offers advice on spotting the signs and helping victims in danger.

It also invites the capital to join an awareness-boosting walk for freedom on October 14, and to call on policymakers and businesses to introduce better protections to prevent abuse and support victims.

Readers can also learn how to uncover for themselves products made using slave labour, and demand that firms issue clear details of their supply chains. Leading lights in anti-slavery today called on Londoners to be the eyes and ears in the fight against the scourge.

“Most people don’t know modern slavery is going on or what it looks like. But everybody can do something about it,” said Professor Gary Craig, founding fellow at Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for Slavery and Emancipation.

At the car wash: Workers sponging cars are sometimes victims of terrifying forced labour conditions (Shutterstock / Dragan Grkic)

Asking questions is crucial, he said, recalling one night when a man with a bucket and sponge offered to clean his car for £6 in a supermarket car park. “I asked him, ‘How much of that do you get?’ and he said £3. ‘Who gets the rest?’ I asked. Then he turned on his heel and disappeared into the dark.”

Slavery is seen across all sectors from fishing to food production, hospitality and social care — as well as in the murky world of sexual exploitation. 

If a man repeatedly books a hotel room at the end of a corridor, ordering meals in rather than eating out, alarm bells should sound for the receptionist. And a small, unassuming terraced house receiving many male evening visitors could turn out to be a den of sex abuse. 

“Everybody reading the Evening Standard can be reasonably sure there is a brothel with trafficked women within two or three miles of where they live,” said Professor Craig. 

Research by King’s College London has shown that as many as one in eight NHS workers have come into contact with somebody they suspected was a victim of modern slavery, but many did not know what to do about it.

Marissa Begonia, co-ordinator of  Justice for Domestic Workers (J4DW), which rescued 12 workers from servitude last month alone, said readers can sometimes help victims through the simple act of reaching out.

Super-cheap nail bars are also hotbeds of modern slavery (Shutterstock / BhFoton)

They could be “in a mall or any public place” — and if a person is being attacked, slapped or shouted at then suspicions should be raised.

“Try to find a way of talking to that person — they may be afraid at first,” she said, adding that J4DW volunteers often secretly slip their phone number to victims.

But if you fear somebody is in immediate danger, call 999.

In non-emergencies, slavery can be reported on 101, Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

Specialist charities such as Justice for Domestic Workers, the Salvation Army, Kalayaan, Unseen, or the NSPCC, can also offer advice.

TJ Birdi, director of the Helen Bamber Foundation, which supports victims of physical, sexual and psychological violence, said: “It is a serious crime and should be treated like any other serious crime and reported. 

“It’s happening around us and we have to attune ourselves.”

Go to the action platform now to learn and raise awareness.

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