Modern Slavery and Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic means new dangers are facing those kept in slavery and servitude and could have serious impacts on modern slavery in the UK.

There is little doubt that the activity of illegal gang-masters and criminal exploiters will continue but, in a world of restricted movement, how and where they operate will almost certainly change.

What changes in modern slavery might we see?

The risk to victims of being unable to social distance is obvious, but the call for everybody to stay at home means the warning signs are more likely to go unseen.

Fewer of us are out and about and able to spot the signs and report suspicious activity.

Many of the sectors we commonly associate with modern slavery and exploitation are largely shut down (e.g. nail-bars, hand car washes…) which means exploited workers could be dumped, forced further into debt bondage or moved to work elsewhere.

Other forms of exploitation will be pushed further behind closed doors.

Changes in MS under covid 19 1

Can we continue to respond during social distancing?

Living under the current measures to help reduce the pandemic means life is different for all of us. We all have to spend much more time at home. This could mean we are more aware of what’s happening around our homes and in our neighbourhoods, while feeling out of touch with what’s happening further afield. Some signs of modern slavery and exploitation will also change - with some disappearing and new ones emerging. Here are some ideas of how we can remain vigilant.

Who can look and how?

  • Volunteers working in projects for vulnerable and destitute people, such as food banks, should understand the signs to look out for when dealing with service users.
  • While spending more time at home, anybody can be more alert to what’s happening on their street and who’s delivering to their door.
  • We can all keep our eyes open and be aware when we go out for essential activities or daily exercise.
  • People involved in agriculture, harvesting and food processing can be alert to warning signs among workers.

In your neighbourhood

  • An increase in visitors and cars to a house or flat.
  • Social distancing issues with overcrowded accommodation or workplaces.
  • Poor or no hygiene facilities.
  • High levels of condensation on windows & constantly covered/blacked out windows.
  • Constant buzz of ventilation and strong lighting throughout day and night.
  • Comings and goings at all hours.

While you’re out

  • Potential victims seeking help at food-banks.
  • Signs of people living on site where services are closed e.g. car washes.
  • Young people going out and/or travelling unnecessarily.
  • Comings and goings to a property at any time of day and night.
  • Concerns about delivery drivers and door to door sellers.
  • Signs of small groups hanging around dealing drugs.

People you see and know

  • Change in a young person’s mood and/or behaviour (e.g. becoming secretive/ withdrawn/ aggressive/ emotional).
  • Excessive and unexplained outings.
  • Unexplained, sometimes unaffordable, new things particularly mobile phones.
  • Signs of physical or psychological abuse and untreated sickness or injuries.
  • Appear malnourished, unkempt, withdrawn and/or neglected.

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