Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a victim of modern slavery – that is, the selling of men, women and children for financial gain. Modern Slavery has many forms and can include forced labour where victims are given no, or very little, money; sex trafficking; forced crime such as shop lifting and begging; domestic servitude; forced marriage and even the organ trade, where organs such as kidneys and liver are harvested and traded. Slavery may seem like the type of thing that happens in far-off places but the Global Slavery Index in 2016 estimated there were 136,000 people living in slavery in the UK, so it’s happening under our noses.
The good news is there is something that we in the property industry can do to help the situation. Slaves have to live somewhere, and they often live in sub-standard, cramped conditions – the type of conditions that might be noticeable to an estate agent, letting agent or surveyor inspecting the property. So, when you are next in a property and notice something unusual, think about it in terms of whether that property might be used to house people against their will.
Take a look in any garages, sheds or outhouses, as well as the loft or basement, for signs of people living in these spaces. Tell-tale signs can also include multiple sets of bunk-beds, or even pizza containers that have been used to feed a number of people.
If there is anyone within the property who is being kept or forced to work against their will, they may look uneasy, unkempt or malnourished, or even have untreated injuries.
Not all of these signs are necessarily proof of modern-day slavery of course, but if they rouse your suspicions and you have strong reason to suspect something untoward, please do report the property – either to the local police, or an organisation like the Salvation Army. It could be the case that your report corroborates other evidence that has been provided and you are able help to uncover a case of humans living in sub-human conditions.
At Arnold & Baldwin we have formed a partnership with the charity, Their Voice, which empowers survivors of modern slavery, offering practical necessities and support for people who have escaped enslavement. If you would like to find out ways to provide your support to the charity, in addition to being observant when you inspect properties, take a look at the website http://www.theirvoicemodernslavery.org.uk/