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Modern slavery hides in plain sight

Anti-Slavery Day takes place every year on 18 October and reminds us that slavery is not confined to the past. In fact it is much closer to home than you may think.

Modern slavery hides in plain sight

The national day, created by the Anti-Slavery Day Act, is an opportunity to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking and encourage everyone to do what they can to address the problem.

Sadly modern slavery still exists and it exists here, in Dorset. Home Office figures showed in 2019 that 59 potential cases of modern slavery were referred to Dorset Police.

Modern slavery is a form of organised crime in which people are treated as commodities and are exploited. The exploitation can take many forms, including sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and forced labour. There is also no typical victim of modern slavery – anyone can be exploited. Victims can be men, women or children. They can be any age and from any background.

The most widespread form is called ‘debt bondage’. This is when a person is forced to work as a means of paying off a debt to the offender. The victim often becomes trapped into working for very little or no pay and are forbidden to work for anyone else. They have little hope of ever paying off the debt which may be passed down to their children.

With different forms of exploitation and no typical victims, modern slavery can be very hard to spot. This is why the police need your support. Please, if you see anything suspicious and suspect people might be being trafficked in your area, report it. Every report helps build a picture of what is happening in Dorset and can help bring the Police closer to disrupting organised crime networks and protecting victims.

Human Trafficking often hides in plain sight which is why it is crucial to raise awareness within our communities.

Here is a list of things Dorset Police says you should be looking for:

  • Physical appearance: Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
  • Isolation: Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control/influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
  • Poor living conditions: Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address.
  • Few or no personal effects: Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.
  • Restricted freedom of movement: Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, e.g. passports.
  • Unusual travel times: They may be dropped off/collected for work on a regular basis, either very early or late at night.
  • Reluctant to seek help: Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.

I encourage anyone who thinks it could be happening in their area to report it either to the police or to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.

For more information, please visit the Dorset Police website here >

Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill

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