By Kate Garbers www.unseenuk.org
Modern slavery is an illicit trade in human beings who are turned into commodities to be bought, sold and exploited for vast profits. It is predicted by Government that there may be as many as 13,000 victims of slavery and trafficking in the UK at any one time. Recent statistics released by the National Crime Agency show that in 2015, 3,266 victims came forward and wanted assistance, this figure represents a 40% increase from 2014. Victims came from 102 different countries, 53% of victims were women and the most common form of exploitation was labour exploitation.
Unseen has been established to work towards a world without slavery. We do this in three main ways by:
Over the last 5 years, we have worked with over 120 women who have accessed our support and safe house accommodation and over 65 men and women in an outreach and community-based setting across Bristol and the South West. We have also encountered numerous potential victims via our multi-agency problem profiling work, in establishments such as nail bars, car washes, restaurants, take-away’s and establishments selling sexual entertainment.
Victims and survivors of slavery and trafficking are often unseen and unheard, their exploitation often occurring in plain sight and this is why Unseen have signed up to the Zero Tolerance Pledge, we fundamentally believe that it is essential we promote equality, empowerment and independence for the survivors we have the privilege of working alongside.
Unseen was also motivated to become part of the Zero Tolerance Initiative and use the opportunity to begin the conversation that tackles the heart of the issue of exploitation, demand, to raise people’s awareness of the issue of slavery and to work with partners to ensure that people are aware this is not an issue that has been consigned to history, slavery is alive and kicking in our generation.
The choices we make as members of the general public presents us with a harsh reality that if we continue to demand cheap labour, cheap goods and cheap services we are in fact promoting the existence of slavery and exploitation within our city. If we didn’t provide the demand the supply would diminish dramatically, it would no longer be profitable to exploit people and this is what we want to see across our city, our country and the world.
People have the right to be free from violence, abuse, harassment and exploitation – the Zero Tolerance initiative allows Bristol to look at each of these issues in detail, to understand all the forms of violence, abuse and inequalities within our community, to learn about them, to wrestle with them, to identify them, to know what to do about them and to work together to ensure our city does not fall into the trap of apathy and denial about these atrocities occurring but steps up and tackles these issues head on and works towards systemic solutions. It is an exciting project to be a part of and we are looking forward to the challenge!