Published Date: 18th October 2019
Slavery is still, unbelievably, having a devastating impact on global society and whilst many would like to think this is an issue confined to the developing world, it is sadly rife here in the UK, with Government estimates numbering victims in the tens of thousands.
On Tuesday this week a report from the Salvation Army identified Wales as being a ‘hotbed of modern slavery’. The culmination of 8 years of work and study in this area, the report makes for disturbing reading.
Many of those who become trapped in slavery enter the UK illegally from countries such as Albania, Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania and Poland, on the false promise of steady work and a better life. Their countries of origin are disguised through fraudulent paperwork and complex criminal supply chains. With no passports, no savings and no accommodation, these individuals are highly vulnerable and become trapped in slavery. This inhumane crime is not limited to targeting individuals from other countries as the gangs behind them also prey on the weak and vulnerable in UK society.
Awareness is growing though and it seems the subject is never far from the headlines as trafficking gangs and networks are exposed across the country. The number of cases being referred to prosecution is on the rise, as the 2018 Government report on modern slavery shows. Last week, four people were found guilty of trafficking women from Slovakia into prostitution in Glasgow.
However, there is still more work to be done around the law – whilst the UK led the way in enacting modern slavery statute, with the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the legislation has come under criticism for not doing enough and was recently subject to an independent review.
Encouragingly our enforcement response is getting stronger, with the creation of the dedicated Modern Slavery Police Transformation Unit, which produced its own report in May this year. The National Crime Agency (NCA) is also committed to tackling this heinous crime having stated that ‘Combating modern slavery and human trafficking is one of our highest priorities. We're working with partners in the UK and around the world to pursue offenders and safeguard victims.’
It's great that so much attention is now focussed on modern slavery but in the same breath it’s equally worrying that far from getting on top of the problem, trafficking is on the increase, leading us to ask what more can be done?
Public vigilance and reporting are absolutely essential and there is already some excellent work being undertaken in this regard. Unseen, one of the many charities tackling modern slavery, launched the UK Modern Slavery helpline which enables members of the public to report potential incidences of modern slavery. Similarly The Clewer Initiative, which works through a large network of church parishes throughout the UK, is actively encouraging members of the public to report potential modern slavery via an app.
However I believe those of us in the front line of financial crime compliance, both in financial services and the corporate sectors, can do so much more by researching and understanding the typologies, money flows, criminal gangs and distribution channels involved in trafficking people. The criminals and organisations involved in trafficking require goods and services just like the law abiding citizens of society and this creates multiple touch points with our organisations, each an opportunity to spot their criminal schemes.
In the business sector we have the technology, data and expertise which, if applied correctly, could identify so many more of the perpetrators and operators who approach our organisations for financial services, or who operate in the dark shadows of global supply chains that underpin so many of the household goods and services we all depend on.
At LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, our global research teams diligently scour the globe, searching for intelligence relating to human trafficking, to provide indepth analysis of tens of thousands of individuals and organisations known to be associated with modern slavery and trafficking.
Our commitment on this Anti-Slavery Day is to continue our in-depth research and provide detailed risk intelligence that will help organisations identify the evil perpetrators of these horrific crimes.