Modern slavery rising in Suffolk – these are the seven signs to look out for
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The number of potential modern slavery victims in Suffolk trebled in the first part of this year compared to the same period of 2019, according to official figures.
Police said the problem was hidden in “every community”, with many victims specifically targeted by their exploiters.
Statistics showed four adults and 13 children were referred by Suffolk police to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for identifying victims between January and March, compared to one adult and three children – including two sexually exploited girls – in the same period of 2019.
The county council referred two children from January to March – having referred one adult and a child in the same quarter of 2019.
Nationally, referrals increased 33% from the same quarter in 2019, with potential victims from the UK, Albania and Vietnam the three most common nationalities to be referred.
Modern slavery encompasses criminal and sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. Common industries involving labour exploitation include agriculture, factories, construction, hospitality, nail bars and car washes.
‘County lines’ drug gangs are also known to exploit children and vulnerable adults.
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Adults must consent to being referred to the NRM, while minors do not need to give consent before the Home Office decides if they could be a victim and entitled to 45 days of further support.
A total of 75 potential victims were referred to the NRM by Suffolk police last year.
Detective Superintendent David Giles said police were committed to tackling the problem and determined to safeguard victims, adding: “We have the resources in place to respond effectively and we will do all we can to stop this exploitation of often vulnerable people by organised criminals.
“We want to encourage the public to look for signs of exploitation and report it to us. We are already seeing an increased awareness, and coupled with improved officer training and diligent crime recording, we are seeing an increase in victim referrals. Rescuing and referring victims is our key priority.”
Police want everyone to know the signs of modern slavery and have published guidance at suffolk.police.uk/advice.
If you have suspicions someone is being trafficked or exploited, or to get help, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
How to recognise the signs of modern slavery:
• PHYSICAL APPEARANCE – Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
• ISOLATION – Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
• POOR LIVING CONDITIONS – Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address
• FEW OR NO PERSONAL EFFECTS – Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
• RESTRICTED FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT – Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, eg passports
• UNUSUAL TRAVEL TIMES – They may be dropped off/collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night
• RELUCTANT TO SEEK HELP – Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.