Rural slavery is often under reported so the need for more focus on how modern slavery is affecting the rural and agricultural sector is indispensable.
Modern slavery is not just a city problem. Have you ever considered who is picking and packing your fruit and vegetables, working on your patio or extension or washing your car in the local hand car wash? It is a sad reality that some of those employed in farming and rural communities may be victims of modern slavery and that means that many of the supply chains behind our everyday goods and services could be blighted by exploitation and modern slavery.
Rural slavery is often under reported so it is vital that there is more focus on how modern slavery affects farming and the rural sector.
To bring attention to this important topic, The Church Commissioners Investment Division and The Clewer Initiative, hosted a seminar in February to explore modern slavery in rural areas and what more can be done to tackle it, both by The Church of England and all those involved in agriculture, rural groups and societies.
All the speakers unfortunately had first-hand experience of British and foreign workers being exploited by criminal gangs on farms, in pack houses and remote locations where often those believed to be employing them were none the wiser to their circumstances.
One of the strong messages coming out of the event was the high level of organisation behind the exploited workers. Gangs operate as highly organised businesses driven purely by profit, running ruthless operations where the commodity of choice is human beings. Legitimate employers are victims too - often paying a heavy price despite rigorous processes of their own to ensure workers are not victims of exploitation or slavery.
Guests at the seminar heard a range of perspectives on the topic discussed in detail, including some of the signs of modern slavery such as physical abuse, poor living conditions, unusual travel arrangements and many more.
The seminar was Chaired by former Bishop of Derby and Chairman of The Clewer Initiative, Alastair Redfern. Speakers included Ali Capper of the National Farmers Union; Shayne Tyler of Fresca Group; Lys Ford of Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority and David Maggs, Mission Team Leader sharing experiences from the Bath and Wells Diocese.
A follow up session is planned for the Autumn. Find out more about modern slavery in rural areas here.