West Yorkshire PCC marks World Day against Trafficking in Persons
30th July 2020
Today (Jul 30) is World Day against Trafficking in Persons – an absolutely horrendous crime that destroys lives and I think today is a timely reminder to encourage people to understand the signs and impact of modern slavery.
This is a subject that I am personally committed to tackling and for many years I have campaigned both locally and nationally to raise awareness of the signs and harm involved.
Unfortunately as a recent report “It Still Happens Here: Fighting UK Slavery in the 2020s” from the Centre for Social Justice which I contributed to, outlined, modern day
slavery remains a very real and ongoing threat to our communities.
Awareness raising is having an impact, but as we can see from the report’s findings, only a small percentage of the public recognise the indicators and we have to share this knowledge further and shine a spotlight upon these human rights abuses.
Particularly now, during the recent Covid-19 outbreak, workers are being displaced across work forces, and in many sectors, exposing them to an increased risk of exploitation, particularly across agriculture and food processing sectors.
We all have a responsibility to take action as consumers of goods and services, and as responsible members of our communities. We need to understand how to spot the signs of trafficking, slavery and exploitation and know how to report those concerns, especially at the earliest opportunity to identify and safeguard vulnerable people at real risk.
We have strong legislation in the Modern Slavery Act, dedicated Police Human Trafficking Teams, partnerships such as the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network which are growing, information sharing and training are becoming more efficient and widespread, which is all enhanced by awareness of these crimes increasing across the board.
But as this latest report shows, still more needs to be done and I will continue to lobby Government and other key organisations for additional survivor rights and more stringent laws to remove these opportunities from the perpetrators of this terrible abuses, which I know can have truly damaging effects and consequences.
We have seen instances locally, for example, where the tobacco trade has been used to take advantage of vulnerable people and we also know that benefit fraud is often widespread as part of such exploitation.
Back in 2016 I created and launched the National Anti-Trafficking & Modern Slavery Network for PCC’s (NATMSN) and continue to be the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) National Lead on Modern Slavery as Chair of the network. Our NATMSN met just recently to talk about a wide range of issues and efforts to tackle and better understand some of the evolving trends around Modern Slavery.
Through the NATMSN network I help make sure colleagues are updated and equipped with appropriate information of the emerging threats and associated issues surrounding modern slavery & human trafficking, including related areas of vulnerability and serious and organised crime.
I have also spoken at the launch of the Underground Lives: Criminal Exploitation of Adult Victims and the Human Trafficking Foundation – Diversity and Inclusion in the Anti-Slavery Sector. It is crucial we always continue to raise awareness around these awful crimes and human abuses.
My office helps to run and coordinate a West Yorkshire Anti-Slavery Partnership to strengthen local work and today sees the launch of new webpages on my website at https://www.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/wyasp in support of the group. The pages contain a whole host of information and resources to help fight modern slavery.
General indicators of human trafficking or modern slavery can include signs of physical or psychological abuse, fear of authorities, irregular activity at homes or addresses, poor living conditions and working long hours for little or no pay. By reporting suspicions you could be saving lives and preventing more misery.
These are truly appalling crimes and we need to ensure that we are all doing we can to help others spot the signs and bringing cases to the attention of the authorities, so today, please familiarise yourself as someone’s life could literally depend on it and may be happening closer than you think. We have taken a very proactive approach here in West Yorkshire to “lifting the stone” as somebody once said, because it’s the right thing to do.
If you have any suspicions, no matter how small, please contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or to the Police.