UK Anti-Slavery Day: Raising awareness of modern slavery in Hertfordshire

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Modern slavery can take many forms, including the coercion of people into forced labour, sex, criminality and servitude

Hertfordshire’s Modern Slavery Partnership will join organisations across the country for UK Anti-Slavery Day today (Monday, October 18) to help raise awareness of modern slavery.

Anti-Slavery Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the exploitation of individuals and to encourage the government, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to do what they can to address the problem.

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Modern slavery can take many forms, including the coercion of people into forced labour, sex, criminality and servitude. It is a global problem that can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender and ethnicity.

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The aim of the UK Anti-Slavery campaign is to raise awareness about the signs of modern slavery and encourage the reporting of any concerns.

During the week the force will be sharing messages from the National Crime Agency and the UK’s Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline, run by Unseen, to raise help awareness of the signs and encourage reporting.

Some of the signs that a person is being exploited too look for are:

- No freedom of movement

- Poor working and living conditions

- Suffering intimidation and coercion

- A lack of knowledge of their rights.

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The Hertfordshire Modern Slavery Partnership was set up to strengthen partnerships and systems to tackle human trafficking in the county

Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, said: “Modern slavery is happening across our county to vulnerable victims, often without members of the public realising it.

"We all have a part to play in reporting our concerns to police when we suspect it may be taking place.

"I want to see the constabulary targeting those who profit from enforced labour, while all businesses must be able to show that it is not taking place in their premises or supply chains.”

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Detective Superintendent Ben Wright, chair of the Serious and Organised Crime Partnership Board, said: “Modern slavery is a serious and often hidden crime which continues to affect people across the UK and the threat has been heavily impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Labour exploitation saw a proportion of the threat being displaced following the closing of public-facing businesses such as nail bars, car washes and restaurants. In response, offenders sought to adopt the non-employer model, placing potential victims into legitimate employment and increasing their takings from rent, fees and wages.

"Both domestic servitude and sexual exploitation predominantly occur in a secluded environment, and became even more difficult to detect with national lockdowns. Criminal exploitation, particularly in young persons has continued to increase.

“In Hertfordshire we are increasingly prosecuting individuals with trafficking offences linked to county lines and safeguarding those who are most vulnerable and exploited in this way.

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"We have also charged four offenders with labour exploitation, money laundering from their criminality and breaching Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders (STRO).

"In 2020, we obtained our first five STROs, which are effective tools in continuing to safeguard victims and prevent further offending.”

Anyone with concerns about exploitation should call Hertfordshire Constabulary’s non-emergency number police 101 (ask for the modern slavery unit) or the national charity-run 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. In an emergency call 999.