‘I had nowhere else to go’ was a phrase the CSJ heard again and again when speaking to victims of modern slavery. For many people enslaved in Britain, this country is an intimidating and unknown place.
For others, their captors have convinced them that even the British police are not to be trusted, and will take them straight back to their abusers if they even dare to try and find help. This extreme fear and isolation is hard to understand – but when even road signs are incomprehensible, finding help can feel completely impossible.
The CSJ has spoken to victims who did not even know which country they were in. It is unrealistic to think that all modern slavery victims will be able to find help, or to escape their abuse.
It is encouraging then to see the Government today recognise communities have a serious role to play in detecting modern slavery with the launch a major public awareness campaign. This adds to a new hotline, run by the NSPCC (but available to adults too) for victims to call for help. It also underpins the developments taking place under the Modern Slavery Bill, which will help agencies to identify victims. The Bill – catalysed by the CSJ report – should pass into law before the next election.
It is hoped that this campaign will help the public to play their part in identifying victims. It recognises that it is not enough to wait for victims to escape – this prolongs abuse and risks further exploitation.
This does not of course absolve responsibility from frontline agencies such as the police to investigate this crime. There are still concerns that as a policing issue modern slavery is still not high enough on the agenda. The National Crime Agency has a crucial role to play.
As we saw in the case in Lambeth not long ago, when three women were kept as slaves for 30 years, slavery can take place just next door. It is vital that we keep our eyes open to what could be going on around us; slavery is closer than we think.