The shame of modern day slavery

DISTURBING: modern slavery image from the Office for National StatisticsDISTURBING: modern slavery image from the Office for National Statistics
DISTURBING: modern slavery image from the Office for National Statistics
SLAVERY should have been expunged from our communities generations ago.

Many people mistakenly think its abolishment in Britain 190 years ago had consigned it to history.

Sadly, as Rotherham and Sheffield can testify, the menace still exists even if it is now classified in modern parlance as “human trafficking”.

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It can happen in nail bars, car washes, and in the cleaning of offices and homes, say South Yorkshire Police.

MODERN DAY SHAME: Slavery still existsMODERN DAY SHAME: Slavery still exists
MODERN DAY SHAME: Slavery still exists

In December, they announced they had carried out raids in Barleycroft Lane, Dinnington and the Manor estate, (*Nelson Mandela Walk and the Circle) arresting four people over alleged sexual exploitation and slavery.

South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s office confirms the practice still continues across the globe in one form or another: "From women forced into prostitution, children and adults forced to work in agriculture, domestic work… entire families forced to work for nothing to pay off generational debts, or girls forced to marry older men, the illegal practice still blights the contemporary world.”

But how seriously does it affect us locally?Do we really have victims being exploited, controlled or held captive?The Rotherham Advertiser has discovered that South Yorkshire Police mounted no fewer than 244 slavery investigations from January 2023 to May 2024.

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Their Modern Slavery Organised Immigration Crime Unit said Sheffield, with its bigger population, had the most cases, some 61.Rotherham was next with 36, the Doncaster 33, and Barnsley 17.

However, it is acknowledged by the Office for National Statistics that: “The level of control and coercion perpetrators of modern slavery have over their victims is often strong but hidden. Charging and prosecuting perpetrators is a challenging process.”

That might explain why only seven of the 244 county-wide cases ever made it to court.

Detective Inspector James Smith from the force’s modern slavery team said the crime was: “Occurring within our communities across South Yorkshire and information from members of the public is crucial so that vulnerable people who are potential victims of exploitation and locations of concern can be identified.

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“We are determined to keep people safe and pursue those who exploit people through modern slavery and human trafficking. If you suspect someone may be at risk or have any information which may relate to modern slavery or human trafficking, please report it to the police or via the modern slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.”

Last October, the Safer Rotherham Partnership pledged to work with police “mapping the local modern slavery landscape to identify high-risk industries and hot spots”.

Across the UK, some 17,004 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the Home Office last year, up from 16,921 in 2022.

Victoria Tecca, from the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre, said the statistics illustrate: “The harsh reality of modern slavery today: that thousands of people are trapped in situations they can’t get out of, exploited in harsh conditions, facing threats, violence, and intimidation.”

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In 2023, 96 children aged under 17 were referred to South Yorkshire Police, amid fears of exploitation.

Ms Tecca said it is “particularly troubling” to see record numbers of children in the statistics.

Victims can remain anonymous while contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.