Modern Slavery and Conflict: The Drivers and the Deterrents

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

a.kidd@hull.ac.uk

Dr Alicia Kidd, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Wilberforce Institute, talks about her forthcoming research monograph, Modern Slavery and Conflict: The Drivers and the Deterrents, after securing a contract with Oxford University Press. Her book will run in the Clarendon Studies in Criminology series.

This book developed out of my PhD thesis on the relationship between conflict and modern slavery, which I completed at the Wilberforce Institute in 2019. I had come to the subject in response to my experience as a practitioner in the field where I identified a real gap in research and knowledge regarding the root causes of modern slavery. In bringing an academic focus to practitioner experience, my book injects new material into the field of modern slavery, which is an area in which interest continues to grow amongst academics, practitioners and members of the public alike. This growing interest in modern slavery has also led to large public debates about immigration and asylum which are topics that my book engages with, particularly in relation to the discrepancies between the UK government’s declared intention to lead the way in defeating modern slavery whilst simultaneously imposing a restrictive and hostile environment on those seeking asylum.

By looking beyond just the individuals involved in cases of modern slavery – the victims and the perpetrators – my book will consider the ways in which states facilitate, and sometimes even actively encourage, situations of modern slavery to occur. While there is growing visibility of modern slavery, the portrayal of modern slavery cases inevitably focuses on an unwilling victim, tricked or deceived into exploitation by a criminal perpetrator looking to benefit from the victim’s misfortune. My book will challenge this conception of modern slavery by questioning the common assumptions that a) victims of modern slavery are all entirely distanced from the fate that awaits them and b) that modern slavery is a relationship simply between a victim and a perpetrator.

With a broad definition of conflict as an organising concept, I consider the ways in which conflict can facilitate modern slavery by generating unsafe conditions, disrupting support networks and encouraging displacement. Using first-hand accounts, comparisons are made between those who fled conflict to the UK in relative safety, and those who fled but then experienced modern slavery. My book contextualises these stories in order to understand why some people appear to be more at risk than others when escaping a conflict situation. The book also considers the lives of people after they have fled conflict and arrived in the UK. With the belief that they have left danger behind, arriving in the UK brings hopes of safety. However, by drawing insights from interviews with those who have experienced the UK immigration system, I am able to make observations about how the UK government and its restrictive and hostile immigration policies actually put people at increased risk of modern slavery once they are in the UK.

The strength of my book lies in its unique empirical focus on a comparison between first-hand accounts of people fleeing conflict to safety, and those fleeing conflict and experiencing modern slavery. It offers rare personal insights into the experiences of asylum seekers, refugees and victims of modern slavery and the specific aspects of their journeys that made them vulnerable to exploitation. I hope to have the first edition available in print in 2022.

In this blog, Professor Oldfield talks about the collaboration he was involved with between the Wilberforce Institute and the British Library.

Modern Slavery Partnership Workshops

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

alicia.kidd@hull.ac.uk

I am currently leading on a project funded by the Modern Slavery Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre. This project sees the development of a resource pack of innovative training workshops which aim to improve practitioner responses and engagement around various aspects of modern slavery. This resource will be shared with all regional Modern Slavery Partnerships across England and Wales in order to provide them with the tools they need to be able to deliver engaging training sessions to their partners at a pace, and in an order, that suits the needs of their region.

To ensure that each workshop is of maximum relevance to its audience, I am supported on this project by partners from the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership, the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and Fresca Group (a supplier of fruit and vegetables to the UK). These partners are using their expertise to provide real life insight into the experiences of victims of different forms of modern slavery in the UK, and also to offer advice on best practice for prevention, response and victim support both for frontline practitioners and for businesses.

In order to develop effective and engaging workshops, each one is written as a standalone exercise and is targeted at a different audience. There are workshops specifically for businesses, recruitment agencies, non-governmental organisations and frontline practitioners such as police, healthcare providers and local authorities. Each workshop is developed with its specific audience in mind and is supported and contextualised by legislation and policies relevant to the target audience which have been developed into accessible handouts. These handouts offer attendees straightforward summaries of complex information outlining key statutory responsibilities, points to consider and ways in which the provisions of policies can be implemented in different situations.

Instead of offering training in the ‘regular’ sense, of one expert running through definitions and statistics of modern slavery, signs to spot and possible ways to respond, these workshops place the attendees as the experts of their respective organisations. There is no single ‘leader’ of the training, but instead, attendees are divided into groups with peers that they would not normally work with in order to maximise the potential to learn about the capacities and capabilities of other organisations local to their own. Each group is supported by a facilitator with knowledge of modern slavery. From running pilot versions of these workshops, we have discovered that open conversation training like this allows for attendees to share experiences, insights and knowledge which they rarely have the chance to divulge in typical teacher-student training.

Each workshop is based on a different scenario of modern slavery, whereby attendees receive small sections of information as the session progresses. Each piece of the scenario builds upon the previous piece and, as in a real life situation, the attendees must use only the information they have in order to identify what the situation could be indicative of, whether a response is required and when, who would be responsible for leading a response and what the most effective ways of dealing with the situation would be. After each section of the scenario has been discussed, the groups are brought back together to share and debate ideas. Here, the facilitators are also able to offer the advised actions that the project team has devised in response to each section of the scenarios.

The scenarios have all been developed based on the experiences of victims of modern slavery in the UK and they include situations of criminal, labour and sexual exploitation as well as domestic servitude. The scenarios include adults, children, males, females, British nationals as well as EU and non-EU nationals in order for attendees to recognise and respond to the different rights and entitlements available for different cohorts of the population.

This project equips Modern Slavery Partnerships with the tools required to be able to run successful and impactful partnership learning exercises for a range of organisations, depending on the needs in their region. The workshops are innovative training tools, enabling partners to identify best practice, share knowledge and experience, improve prevention and victim care, and identify gaps in knowledge or provision. The Modern Slavery Partnerships will then be able to use the findings from the workshops to set actions in order to plug any identified gaps before they are experienced in reality.

If you’d like more information, please contact Alicia via email.

Summary of author’s recent publications

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

alicia.kidd@hull.ac.uk

Today Alicia Kidd, postdoctoral researcher at the Wilberforce Institute, provides a summary of two of her recent chapters on human trafficking.

Both can be found in Julia Muraszkiewicz, Toby Fenton and Hayley Watson, eds, Human Trafficking in Conflict: Context, Causes and the Military (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), at https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030408374

‘Unavoidable Exploitation? Conflict, Agency and Human Trafficking’

In this first chapter, I look at those who find themselves caught up in human trafficking and conflict. Both are topics that have received significant attention within the Social Sciences. However, there is little literature that looks explicitly at the intersections between the two, or that considers if – and how – conflict might impact a person’s risk of being trafficked. What does exist focuses predominantly on child soldiers and post-conflict zones.

As a result I begin with a summary of the literature surrounding child soldiers. It concentrates on how child soldiers fit the definition of being victims of human trafficking, the ways that child soldiers are recruited, their experiences whilst attached to an armed force or group, and how their experiences continue to affect them long after they leave, or after the conflict ends.

My focus then turns to post-conflict zones and how the long-lasting effects of conflict can continue to put people at risk of trafficking even after the conflict has ended. The existing literature highlights a range of issues leading to human trafficking in post-conflict situations including economic and political restructuring, corruption and poverty, as well as the vulnerabilities faced by refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and children; these topics are all discussed.

Whilst this chapter summarises current knowledge of the links between conflict and human trafficking, I build upon this knowledge by introducing the findings gathered from in-depth face-to-face interviews with individuals who have fled conflict to the UK. These findings provide personal insights into experiences of how conflict can increase a person’s vulnerability to becoming a victim of human trafficking.

Understandings of human trafficking often revert to an assumption that all agency must have been removed from the victim. While some victims of trafficking have no agency in the lead up to their trafficking experience, others have some level of choice in the decisions that lead towards their exploitation. Collating the existing literature and the findings from the interviews, I argue in this chapter that conflict impacts a person’s agency to the extent that it increases a person’s risk of being trafficked. Conflict restricts the choices available to a person, leaving them to choose between limited options which are commonly all imbued with risk. But while their choices may all be undesirable, people do exercise agency within the narrow range of options available to them, and some of these choices will lead to exploitation. As such, I argue that victimhood and agency should not be understood as a binary, but on a spectrum.

‘How Definitions of ‘Child Soldiers’ Exclude Girls from Demobilisation Efforts’ (with Dr Ally Dunhill)

The definition ‘child soldier’ is commonly understood to refer to any person under 18 used in any capacity by armed forces or groups; this includes armed combatants, but also those in ancillary roles such as cooks, ‘wives’ and guards. Disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programmes exist to encourage soldiers to give up their weapons, to take them out of service, and to resettle them into civilian society. Such programmes aim to create stability, re-establish security and create the conditions needed for peace. However, while DDR programmes claim to be aimed at everyone involved in armed forces or armed groups, regardless of their role, in practice, they often use much narrower definitions for child soldiers, focusing predominantly on those who carry a weapon; this serves to exclude many roles typically undertaken by girls. 

In this chapter, co-written with Ally Dunhill, we examine the remit and outcomes of DDR programmes to understand why they differentiate between the gendered experiences of child soldiers. Using examples of these programmes, we analyse how children are identified and recruited into such initiatives. We contemplate whether children’s experiences as being part of armed forces (belonging to a state) and armed groups (not under the clear control of a state authority) are adequately considered, and whether the gendered treatment in these programmes is conducive to long term recovery and reintegration into civilian communities. We explore how girls are often overlooked in definitions of child soldiers and highlight the harmful consequences of this. We then assess how the outcomes of the programmes impact the futures of those both included and excluded in the remit of the programmes.

We find that in failing to recognise girls as victims in these situations, DDR programmes are leaving them in precarious situations whereby they have left a trafficking situation only to find themselves in a vulnerable position, facing a lack of support and a high risk of re-exploitation. Building on existing literature on female child soldiers, this chapter highlights the need for further research and concludes with recommendations for generating more effective and inclusive efforts to support female children associated with armed forces or armed groups.

Human Trafficking in Conflict: Context, Causes and the Military (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), at https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783030408374

Labour Exploitation in Supply Chains

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

alicia.kidd@hull.ac.uk

Dr Kidd is particularly interested in bridging the gap between academia and practice in relation to modern slavery and, alongside her academic post, is the Vice Chair of the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership, a position she has held since 2016. She also works with the Risk Assessment Service at the Wilberforce Institute, which supports businesses in identifying and mitigating risks of labour exploitation in supply chains. The blog below was commissioned by Crimestoppers to coincide with their recent campaign on modern slavery. We have replicated the piece here so that it can be made available to a wider audience.

Modern slavery is a term used to refer to extreme forms of exploitation including sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation and even organ harvesting. These crimes affect both adults and children and aren’t limited to gender or nationality. In fact, in 2019 UK nationals constituted the largest single nationality of people referred into the National Referral Mechanism – the UK government’s system for identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery.

Since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, many businesses have become aware of the term ‘modern slavery’, because of the requirement the Act places on businesses. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act is the Transparency in Supply Chains clause which, in summary, requires any business which operates (at any level) in the UK with an annual turnover of £36 million or more to produce an annual modern slavery statement which is publicly accessible.

While the compliance rate fluctuates (currently around 79% of companies required to publish a statement have done so), so too does the quality of the reports, which often betray a limited understanding of the crime, how it might affect a business and how best to respond (though it must be noted that the content of the statements is not officially assessed; compliance rests entirely on whether or not a statement is published, regardless of what the statement says).

Labour exploitation is the most common form of modern slavery identified in the UK and it is important that businesses have a good working knowledge of how to protect their supply chains from it. Below are some practical steps that businesses can take to limit risk.

  1. First of all, when you begin to look for labour exploitation in your supply chain, you should expect to find it. Exploiters will always aim to be at least one step ahead and concerns may not initially be apparent. Those who are being exploited may be reluctant to come forward, so the onus is on you to identify an issue rather than relying on it being brought to your attention.
  1. While it is important for directors and management to be aware of what modern slavery is and how it presents, especially in regards to developing a high-quality modern slavery statement, they are unlikely to be the ones that come into contact with exploitation within the supply chain. Training should be targeted at the lowest level, to ensure that those who are likely to come into contact with potential victims are aware of what to look for and what they should do if they have concerns.
  1. You should create safe reporting mechanisms within your organisation so that potential victims, or those that have concerns, have somewhere to ask for support or share information. Guidance on how to report into this mechanism should be readily available to all staff. However, don’t share how you will act on intelligence, as once this information reaches an exploiter, they will find a way to work around it. Consider it a positive when concerns are raised as this means that your reporting mechanism is effective.
  1. While a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to modern slavery might seem logical, it could actually encourage rather than deter exploitation. Instead of ending a contract with a supplier you have concerns over, provide them with a list of issues they need to fix and a deadline by which these must be done. Only if that date comes and significant progress has not been made should you end the contract. To end the contract at the first concern runs the risk of allowing the exploiter to continue to operate elsewhere and potentially failing to get assistance to the people who need it.
  1. Provide all staff with information on their rights and entitlements in languages they can access.
  1. If possible, run regular informal worker interviews with all staff so that you have the chance to speak with workers individually. If this is established as standard practice then it provides the opportunity to have private conversations with staff members without raising alarm bells for exploiters. Getting to know your workers in this way is also a method of demonstrating that you are proactive about due diligence.

If you have concerns about exploitation in your supply chain, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) may be able to offer assistance. The GLAA exists to protect vulnerable and exploited workers and investigate reports of labour exploitation, human trafficking, forced labour, illegal labour provision and offences that sit under the National Minimum Wage Act and The Employment Agencies Act. You can report a concern to GLAA on 0800 432 0804.

Workers in the agricultural sector can be at high risk of exploitation and abuse

On the Ground: Front Line Observations

Dr Alicia Kidd

Postdoctoral Researcher

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

alicia.kidd@hull.ac.uk

Andrew Smith

Coordinator

Humber Modern Slavery Partnership and the Wilberforce Institute

a.smith9@hull.ac.uk

Through our associations with modern slavery partnerships and front-line practitioners across the country, we have been able to access some of the direct observations that have been made regarding the impact that Covid-19 has been having on vulnerable populations. It is key to note that many of these experiences will not be caused entirely by Covid-19, but will be a result of an amalgamation of the impacts of the disease, coupled with wider political, economic and societal structures that tend to most significantly impact those in lower socio-economic groups.

Impact on modern slavery support services
The government has announced that anyone in National Referral Mechanism (NRM) safehousing will not be required to leave the safehouse for three months in light of the heightened risk they would face as a result of Covid-19. The modern slavery helpline and Salvation Army referral line remain open and it is still possible to refer people to the NRM in the current climate.

However, Covid-19 has put significant strain on a large proportion of first responder organisations, victim care contract providers and third sector organisations who support victims of modern slavery. This has led to reduced services, furloughed staff and a closure of drop-in centres, making it much more difficult to offer direct support to those who need it. Face-to face visits are now only made on very rare occasions, with support workers remaining at a safe distance from the clients, and most check-ins are conducted over the phone. Many clients rely on gas and electricity cards which have to be topped up at shops. With many of these shops now shut, clients are unable to top up their cards and are faced with limited gas and electricity supplies.

Counselling and support services have decreased, as have the number of staff able to work simultaneously in safehouses, meaning an increase in lone working. This is to the detriment of victims and survivors, as well as to those working to support them.

Impact on work
We are identifying that in light of Covid-19, low paid workers are being sacked rather than receiving statutory sick pay. The closure of restaurants, carwashes and nail bars is also resulting in the eviction of workers from their accommodation. These workers are then reporting as homeless, which is pushing them into desperate situations in order to find work to be able to survive, therefore increasing their risk of exploitation. Coupled with this risk is the reduction in labour regulation inspections as a result of social distancing, meaning there are fewer checks to ensure worker welfare. We are also aware that exploitative labour has moved away from those businesses that have shut as a result of Covid-19 and is now moving into agriculture and packing which are getting busier. Soup kitchens have been identified as locations for labour force recruitment and county lines dealing.

Agencies supporting sex workers are reporting that, while the paying for sex has reduced as a result of social distancing, workers are now predominantly moving on to webcam work. Some of the workers have no recourse to public funds, no job security and now no income source. 

Impact on those with substance misuse issues
As a result of Covid-19, extremely vulnerable cohorts have faced real difficulties in obtaining prescriptions for methadone, etc. Those who are struggling are finding supplies of alternative drugs to use in place of these and, as a result, are vulnerable to dealers, drug debts and unsafe substances. Drug users who are isolated, who may be substituting drugs and subsequently overdosing and becoming unwell, have less access to emergency care because of isolation and a lack of ability to contact those who can help. The Wilberforce Institute and local partners have already identified that there has been an increase in known drug users dying alone whilst isolated from their support networks as a result of Covid-19.

Some support agencies are reporting an increase in clients’ alcohol consumption, with a correlated increase in aggression by clients, both towards other clients and towards support staff. There has also been an increase in self-harm and suicide attempts.

Local businesses forced to close during lockdown
Local businesses forced to close during lockdown