It is estimated by the Global Slavery Index that 45.8 million people were living in some form of slavery in 2016, of which there may be around 11,700 in the UK. While slavery is illegal throughout the world it still exists in the form of forced labour of children and adults; bonded labour (work in order to repay a debt); sexual exploitation; and forced marriage. While drugs can be sold once, human beings can be sold again and again.
In the developed world most people end up in slavery through human trafficking.
Human trafficking is the movement of people by deception, coercion or violence, in order to exploit them. It involves 3 elements:
What is done: recruiting, transporting, harbouring and receiving people
How it is done: using threats or the use of force, coercion, abduction, fraud or deception, abuse of power, payment etc.
Why it is done: in order to exploit people: Including sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, other forms of slavery, removal of organs, controlling people so that they will perform criminal acts etc.
Although justice has been devolved the N Ireland arrangements for identifying victims sit within the UK framework.
The National Crime Agency lists the following forms of human trafficking: sexual exploitation of men women and children; forced labour; domestic servitude; organ harvesting; and child exploitation (including forced begging).
Victims of modern slavery are identified through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and 3,805 potential victims were referred to the NRM in 2016, 1,278 if whom were minors. The most common form of exploitation was labour exploitation. Potential victims were from 108 different countries.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidated existing legislation, increased maximum sentences, enhanced the support and protection of victims, and encouraged businesses to ensure that their supply chains were free of slavery.
UK National Trafficking Referral Mechanism (NRM)
The UK ratified the UN Convention Against Human Trafficking in 2008 and this included signing up to a new national referral mechanism, a process to help frontline staff identify victims of trafficking and offer them support. The UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) was introduced in 2009.
In order to be recognised as a victim of trafficking and slavery via the NRM people are referred to the UK Human Trafficking Centre who should decide within 5 days that there are ‘reasonable grounds’ for assuming that they are victims. They are then given 45 days for reflection and recovery when they can decide what they want to do and whether they feel that they can co-operate with the police or not. They are helped with accommodation.
If they are given a positive decision they are allowed to stay in the country for at least a year, have access to benefits and are allowed to work. They may get an extension especially if a criminal investigation is taking a long time. Some people want to go home and can be helped to do so. If they get a negative decision the Home Office may help them to go home if they have no other right to stay. Some people may also apply for asylum in the UK because of fear of persecution if they return home.
The Home Office, local authorities, the health trusts and the PSNI can refer potential victims in N Ireland.
Some trafficked people may have been smuggled in, but many will have entered the country legally, either from Europe where they do not need visas to work here or from outside Europe, with visas as skilled migrants e.g. in the fishing industry. They will probably have come here on the promise of a good job through a person or agency in their own country who arranged their transport and to whom they then owe a lot of money. On arrival the promised job will not exist. They will be controlled through threats and violence and told that the authorities may deport them if they complain.
During the NRM recognition process Belfast & Lisburn Women’s Aid support female victims of sexual exploitation and domestic servitude; Migrant Help UK support the other adults; and Social Services care for children and young people.
Find out as much as you can so that you can spot the signs and act to help trafficked people.