Modern Slavery in Suffolk and Norfolk

Some of the forms of Employment where there is fears of Modern Day Slavery.

Some of the forms of Employment where there is fears of Modern Day Slavery. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

You could have seen or spoken to a slave today. Modern slavery isn’t a problem limited to urban Britain, its here in Suffolk and Norfolk. JAMES MARSTON reports.

“Today you could be a couple of feet away from a victim of modern slavery”

That’s the powerful message coming from those who gather intelligence and information to help fight organised crime and slavery in Suffolk and Norfolk.

Stephen Tunks, modern slavery and organised crime coordinator for Suffolk Constabulary, said the issue is not simply limited to big cities but victims are being found in Norfolk and Suffolk.

He added: “Modern slavery isn’t just about people working in the fields but crosses all sorts of cultures and criminal activities. We are asking the public to help us uncover this crime and help us spot victims.”

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Detective Chief Inspector Angus Moir, collates intelligence and information in order to fight modern slavery in Suffolk and Norfolk.

In an interview room in Suffolk Constabulary HQ at Martlesham, near Ipswich, he says the issue is often complex and difficult to investigate.

He said: “Modern slavery encompasses a number of different areas of criminal activity, including human trafficking, labour abuse, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, using people for things like drug smuggling or organised crime.”

Angus added: “Every investigation involves a multi-agency approach with organisations such as the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority, HRMC, Immigration Services, Trading Standards, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross. Our priority is always safeguarding the victims.

“Labour exploitation and exploitation in the sex industry are the two areas that come to our attention the most often in Suffolk and Norfolk. Our job is to detect and investigate crime and bring together a broad intelligence picture in order to do so.”

In Suffolk, for example, there have been 17 investigations this year into crimes associated with modern slavery, with 13 arrests. These are complex investigations with victims often requiring interpreters and often afraid to talk to the police.

Detective Chief Inspector Barry Byford, whose responsibilities include safeguarding of victims of modern slavery, said the crimes are often part of sophisticated and highly-developed organised crime.

He added: “People are being exploited in our region and they need our support.”

Victims in our region are often employed in car washes and nail bars as well as in the fields.

Stephen said the constabulary has 17 police officers and PSCOs who have volunteered as modern slavery champions who work, alongside their day jobs, to locate slavery and exploitation victims.

Stephen added: “Slavery is an insult to human dignity. When you come across this crime it makes you ask how on earth a human can do this to another human, we all have a responsibility to look out for it and help to stop it.”

- If you need help, or you think someone may be a victim of slavery or exploitation, call the confidential UK modern slavery helpline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 08000 121 700.

Modern Slavery – In Profile

-Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.

-Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation

-5,145 people were identified as potential victims of trafficking in the UK in 2017. This is a 35% increase on 2016 figures.

-2,118 of the 5,145 potential victims of trafficking identified in 2017 were children. This is a 66% increase on 2016 figures.


Indicators to spot modern slavery

Stephen said there are clues to look out for and questions to ask when you suspect someone might be a victim of exploitation crime.

He said: “There are some indictors. Perhaps there is someone you see who looks malnourished, or is always wearing the same clothes. Perhaps you know of a property where there is a lot of people staying in squalid conditions.

“When you get your car washed are the people there suitably dressed? Studies have shown if a car wash costs under £6 then maybe the people washing the cars aren’t being paid properly. Has someone offered your business cash in hand labour.

“A lot of victims are unable or unwilling to speak out, they are often frightened and don’t know English. We need the public to be vigilant and work with us.”

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