December 2nd – International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Professor Trevor Burnard

Director of the Wilberforce Institute

University of Hull

T.G.Burnard@hull.ac.uk

On the day the UN sets aside for observance of the International Abolition of Slavery,  Professor Trevor Burnard, Director of the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation at the University of Hull, talks about the history of abolition, the numbers of people currently in forced labour, and the need to continue to combat slavery in the UK and around the globe.

The 2nd of December is an auspicious date for it commemorates an important evolution in human history, the acknowledgement that everywhere in the world slavery is illegal. Making slavery illegal globally came very late. Until the late eighteenth century, hardly anyone questioned that slavery was an important, if occasionally distasteful, institution that generally brought important people wealth and influence and often, as in the eighteenth century British and French empires, was a source of national prosperity.

France was the first nation to abolish slavery, in 1794, at the height of the French and Haitian Revolutions and then reintroduced it under Napoleon in 1802, meaning that its final abolition was only in 1848. Britain abolished the slave trade in 1807, a hard-fought battle led by both White abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson and Black freedom fighters, such as Olaudah Equiano.

 It was a matter of great pride for Britons then and often still that Britain led the way in abolishing the slave trade but it took another generation, until 1838, until slavery was formally abolished in the British Empire and even then slavery continued to exist in British possessions in Africa, South Asia and New Zealand. Nevertheless, as has become clear from protests, especially in the Caribbean, surrounding royal visits and around the relationship of Caribbean nations with Britain, the triumph of emancipation in 1838 obscures the fact that Britain did not give any compensation to emancipated ex-slaves while providing considerable financial help to the people who had owned enslaved people continues to rankle. Demands for reparation for the harm done to people during slavery are increasingly frequent and are enhanced by growing knowledge of just how much British wealth was based upon the labour of African-descended enslaved people, growing sugar and other tropical crops in atrocious conditions.

The reparations movement, gaining momentum in the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere, and which connects to increasing claims about considering colonialism and the damages of climate change and how they affect the Global South, makes one realise that the historical legacies of slavery remain an important social and political concern. And these political controversies connect us to the reality that slavery, however we define it, whether as coerced labour or human trafficking or sexual exploitation continues to be a growing modern problem.

The number of people in forms of forced labour that amount to slavery is greater now than the numbers who were in slavery when European and American nations abolished slavery in the nineteenth century. It is more also than when nations in Africa and the Middle East formally abolished slavery in the last third of the twentieth century. Fortunately, the number of slaves in the world population of 2022, at around 0.7 percent, is lower than at the height of slavery, around 1800, when perhaps 5 percent of the world population was enslaved. But the numbers of people in forms of enslavement today remain huge and are increasing.

Britain and a few other places have instituted a Modern Slavery Act to try and combat this scourge, with 12,717 potential victims of modern slavery identified in Britain in 2021. The largest number of people identified as subject to slavery in Britain are British nationals, showing that as in the eighteenth century, slavery is not something happening elsewhere but is happening here as well. On this day of commemoration of something that was a signal advance in human history – the abolition of slavery and its transformation into being everywhere a crime – we need to remember just how much work we need to do to make slavery not just illegal but truly a thing of the past.

The boxes are pictured in Hull’s Whitefriargate. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures

My PhD Data Collection Journey: Field Trip to Malawi  

Mavuto Kambochola Banda

PhD student, Living with the Consequences of Slavery Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

M.K.BANDA-2020@hull.ac.uk

Data collection is a critical part of primary research. In my study of the impact of child labour bans in Malawi’s agriculture on the lived experiences of children, their families and communities, it was necessary to meet the people involved. In this blog, I will take you through my field data collection journey.

Planning the trip

After getting research ethics approval from the University of Hull’s Faculty of Science and Engineering, the next step was getting research ethics clearance in Malawi. For someone studying at a foreign institution to be able to carry out research in Malawi, there are two options to follow in order to get ethics approval before collecting data. The first option is applying for and getting ethics clearance through the National Commission of Science and Technology where a relevant committee depending on your area of study looks into your application and provides feedback. On the other hand, one can also get research ethics clearance through a local research institution such as universities and organisations. I followed the second option and was attached to the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST)’s Center for Innovation and Industrial Research (CIIR). I applied for research ethics clearance from the MUST Research Ethics Committee (MUSTREC), and I got my ethics clearance approval early in January 2022. I have learnt a lot about academic and administrative processes that must be followed when conducting research in a different country from your where your institution is based.

My six months stay at MUST is memorable as I was exposed to valuable research and collaborations within the CIIR. What excited me most was that research the CIIR is skewed towards industry challenges in key sectors of the Malawian and regional economy in agriculture, health and education sectors among others. The set up at the CIIR is identical to my parent institute, the Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation  at the University of Hull. The Wilberforce Institute is well known for its research on historical and contemporary slavery and in recent years, has developed interests in researching children’s exploitation, working closely with practitioners in these sectors. Apart from providing me with an office space and internet connection, I was involved in developing the academic progress monitoring system for postgraduate students under the CIIR and in reviewing MUST’s postgraduate handbook. I gained valuable skills through my involvement in these activities, and I am grateful to the staff in the CIIR and MUST at large for their support during my stay there.

Field work

After getting all the required clearance and I began talking to stakeholders on the ground to start planning field data collection trips. I first engaged with the Ministry of Labour who were so helpful and gave me contacts for district labour officers of Thyolo, Mulanje and Zomba Districts where I planned to engage the communities living around commercial tea and tobacco estates. The next stage was to visit the labour offices of each of these districts. My engagement with the labour officers was so enlightening and informed my selection of communities and other stakeholders I needed to talk to.

The highlight of this engagement with district labour officers was at Thyolo District Council. When I met the labour officer for Thyolo, I was informed and invited to the scheduled District Child Labour Committee (DCLC) meeting. To say I got valuable tips on the fight against child labour in the districts might be an understatement. The DCLC meeting drew together all stakeholders in anti-child labour programmes in the district including representatives from the district labour office, district social welfare office, district gender office, district agriculture office, the judiciary, district education office, district youth office, youth organisations, traditional leaders and the NGOs community among others. With the level and clarity of information I got from the meeting, I felt that I gained all I needed to know about child labour in the district, from programmes on the ground, and challenges and steps being taken to ensure all children are protected in the district. Coming at the start of my field data collection, the DCLC meeting energised me and re-invigorated my purpose. It reminded me why it is so important to research about the lived experiences of children, families and communities after children were banned from working in the commercial tea and tobacco estates.

From the district councils, I went straight onto the ground to meet local leaders starting with traditional authorities (T/As), then group village heads (GVH) and then village heads where potential respondents were to be drawn from. Overall, I managed to match or exceed the research targets I had set myself. I had planned to reach 120 survey respondents, I managed to reach 132. On focus group discussions, I had planned to conduct 18 and achieved 18. Finally, on interviews, I conducted 29 interviews out of the 30 I had planned.

Challenges

Let me sign out by highlighting some of the challenges faced during data collection. The biggest challenge was access to research funds. Before traveling to Malawi, I had arranged with my bank to get access to my bank account while in Malawi. Unfortunately, this was not possible, and as I could not access the funds this delayed my field work as I needed the funds to pay field research assistants. The university finance department and my supervisors were so helpful in rectifying the financial hiccup. Another delay of field data collection occurred when some areas became inaccessible by road after tropical cyclone Ana brought heavy rains early in 2022. And as if these setbacks were not enough, I got sick with chicken pox and lost almost 3 weeks research time. Nevertheless, as I now go through the processing of my data, I am so happy with the volume and diversity of the data I have.

Image: Tea estate road in south eastern Malawi             Source: Mavuto Banda

The Impact of the Climate Crisis on Modern Slavery

Megan White

Modern Slavery Partner Administrator,

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

Megan.White@hull.ac.uk

Globally, endeavours have been made for the prevention and eradication of modern slavery. Target 8.7 of the UN’s current Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs] aiming to ‘end modern slavery and human trafficking’ and the G7 financial minister’s recent joint statement condemning the exploitation of people in global supply chains highlight this. Nonetheless, the International Labour Organisation has estimated that just under 50 million people are trapped in modern slavery in 2021. It is well established that global supply chains are hubs for the international exploitation of people. The NGO, Anti-Slavery International, for instance has reported that 16 million people are currently exploited in the private sector with links to supply chains. Exploitation is a common feature at all stages in production, from harvesting the initial raw materials to manufacturing and shipping.

The growing challenge of the climate crisis adds an additional layer of complexity to modern slavery and human trafficking globally. Environmental degradation, loss of land, security and livelihoods are set to push millions of people into vulnerable situations that risk exploitation. Moreover, for those already at risk of exploitation, the climate crisis will only add to their vulnerability. Heat waves, earthquakes, extreme flooding and wildfires are just some of the consequences of the ongoing climate crisis. Most often the poorest members of society from low-income countries are impacted disproportionately because of the limited national disaster relief capacity of the State, and the fact that many individuals rely on optimal climate conditions to support their livelihoods. Primarily this is seen in the agricultural sector. As a direct result of this, climate catastrophes will force individuals into situations of desperation, posing an increased risk for them to become vulnerable to exploitation.

This is a universal challenge that the international community needs to address. The joint report produced by the International Institute for Environment and Development and Anti-Slavery International in 2021 cements this, finding that drought in North Ghana has forced migration to cities, and upon reaching these cities, individuals were at higher risk of modern slavery, particularly debt bondage, trafficking and sexual exploitation. Moreover, the 2016 report of the International Organisation for Migration [IOM] revealed that in India, exploiters tend to recruit before the harvest season or in periods of drought as these are often the hardest time periods for agricultural workers, ensuring advantage can be taken of them at the peak of their vulnerability.

These brief examples demonstrate that climate change is already exacerbating modern slavery, acting as a driver for vulnerability. On an international level the IOM has stressed the importance of understanding the ‘hidden’ consequences of the climate crisis, and that it goes far beyond extreme weather conditions. Considering this, responses to modern slavery must include the impact of climate change, particularly in areas with poor governance and insufficient national protections established for potential climate migrants.

However, a lack of corporate social responsibility, the prospect of being involved in a 150 billion dollar economy and a huge consumer demand from the West underscore a lack of willingness by exploiters to amend the appalling human rights violations in modern slavery. This is further compounded by the sophisticated recruitment strategies and desperate situations of vulnerability which foster ideal conditions to help facilitate modern slavery.

International Law prohibits modern slavery, with some forms of slavery even prosecuted as crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court. However, clear gaps remain in protections against those subjected to modern slavery, as demonstrated by the examples and statistics outlined previously. Enforcement of norms is unclear, and because of the various components of modern slavery, UN bodies, human rights regulators and other international systems are fragmented, leading to inefficiencies. This is further exacerbated and complicated by the challenges brought on through climate change. Although modern slavery is a feature of the SDGs for 2030, in part due to the UK government launching an international campaign to raise awareness of this issue, many parties seem uninterested and unwilling to initiate change to prevent the exploitation and commodification of people, particularly when the demand is so high in this multi-billion dollar industry.

On a more local level, the University of Hull’s 2030 agenda is focused on carving out a more equitable and sustainable world, by addressing inequalities and injustices including exploitation. Moreover, the expertise of the Wilberforce Institute has been utilised by organisations to map out the risks associated with labour and human rights violations by large corporations in their supply chains. The Institute also remains at the forefront of delivering knowledge and conducting research on modern slavery within the UK. However, as Vice Chancellor Professor Dave Petley reflected on last week in his blog for Anti-Slavery Day, there is still much to do.

Telling Stories of the Hidden Colonial Histories of Our Geological Institutions

Dr Munira Raji

Postdoctoral Researcher

Department of Geography, Geology & Environment

University of Hull

m.raji-idowu@hull.ac.uk

The ‘Decolonising UK Earth Science pedagogy – from the hidden histories of our geological institutions to inclusive curricula‘ project focuses on exploring the unrecognised knowledge upon which the foundational institutions of Earth Science are built and how this legacy creates modern-day inequity in our discipline. It aims to begin dismantling this inequity by taking a decolonising Earth Science pedagogy and curriculum approach. The project brings a number of institutions together: the University of Hull (Geology and the Wilberforce Institute); the University of Leeds; Queen’s University of Belfast; Sheffield Hallam University; the British Geological Survey; the Geological Society of London; and the Royal Geographical Society.

It was during the late eighteenth century that many of the principles, theories, laws and practices that shape the (Western) academic discipline of Earth Science were established (Sangwan, 1993). Geology emerged as a specialised branch of science in the colonial state, playing an important role in locating the mineral resources that were needed to fuel growing industrial societies. The foundations of the field, and the institutions that arose during this time, benefitted from, and perpetuated, resource extraction and the knowledge it required, and were essential tools for imperial development and expansion (Rogers et al., 2022). This project will examine the integral role British geologists played in the quest for industrialisation and the expansion of British colonial rule in Africa and India from the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. Exploitable deposits of coal, copper, iron, and limestone’s essential smelting flux were vital for the long-term development of steamship lines, railways, and industry, for example. Mineral surveys thus became potent tools in the hands of the colonising British and ensured that geologists worked hand in hand with the most powerful organisations for colonial exploitation.

Left Image: Surveyor and locals panning for gold in alluvial workings. Right Image: Surveyor in dugout canoe. Images downloaded from the British Geological Survey, E.O. Teale photograph collection ©NERC. (Source: Special collections/ E.O. Teale photograph collection 1900s-1930s (mostly Africa))


Geologists recruited through the Colonial Office in London played a significant role in identifying which territories were resourceful. The first Colonial Mineral Surveys started in Southern and Northern Nigeria and Nyasaland between 1906-1909, and the first Colonial Geological Survey was established on the Gold Coast in 1913. At the end of the First World War, the British government promoted and intensified geological surveys in several African territories of the Empire – Uganda, Sierra Leone and Nigeria in 1918, Tanzania in 1925 and Kenya in 1933. Some geologists were heralded for their pioneering discoveries. Sir Albert Ernest Kitson (Fellow of the Geological Society of London, Principal mineral surveyor in Southern Nigeria and Director of the Gold Coast Geological Survey) is credited with the discovery of economically significant deposits of coal in Southern Nigeria and manganese, diamonds, and bauxite in the Gold Coast.

Illustrative photographs of Mineral Survey party with Nigerian locals. Images taken from Southern Nigeria: Some Considerations of Its Structure, People, and Natural History by Albert Ernest Kitson, 1913. Source: The Geographical Journal, January 1913, Vol. 41, No. 1 (January 1913), pp. 16-34. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1778485

Local people were used as guides, carriers, labourers, and camp guides in menial jobs that did not pay for their geological expertise, even though our investigations have revealed some local knowledge was cited in reports and publications. However, the first Nigerian to be employed as a geologist in the Colonial Geological Surveys was Okezie, C.N. (BSc), who was not appointed until 1954.

In addition, though local use of these resources may have been extensive, opportunities for the indigenous population to benefit from them were often brought to an end under colonial rule. Following discoveries of gold (the Witwatersrand gold field) and coal (in the Transvaal and the neighbouring Natal colony), 75,500 British citizens migrated to South Africa in search of mineral wealth, and there was a rapid demand for native lands. The result was The Natives Land Act of 1913, which reserved most of the land for White ownership, and forced many Black farmers and landowners to work as wage labourers on land that had previously been under their control. In 1930, after the British geologist, Major John D. Pollet had reported the discovery of diamonds in Sierra Leone, digging for minerals by native Sierra Leoneans was made illegal.

Other colonising European powers practised the use of geology for colonial expansion in Africa and the exploitation of its mineral resources. The Hidden Histories project aims to explore these themes further, uncovering untold stories of using Earth Sciences as a tool of exploitation. It will reveal how local guides and intermediaries underpinned the activities of the colonial surveys and hopes to identify specific instances of where and how local and indigenous geological knowledge was exploited during colonial exploratory surveys and in the construction of the modern discipline of Earth Science. In addition, we aim to make explicit the exclusion of different minority groups in geological exploration and knowledge production. This will support the first part of our project – to decolonise the Earth Science curriculum as it is taught in the UK. The second part will be to develop open-access educational resources that academics can incorporate into their programmes on these themes. A project website with our findings and decolonisation resources is coming soon – watch this space!

Revisiting seafood supply chains with Waitrose

Cristina Talens

Director of Modern Slavery Risk Assessments

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

c.talens@hull.ac.uk

For over 15 years, Waitrose has had a strategy in place for the responsible sourcing of wild-caught and farmed fish. The retailer has placed great emphasis on ensuring they sell only high quality products sourced from known and approved farms (Waitrose’s supply chain information can be found on the Ocean Disclosure Project website). However, these farms (and fisheries) are located across the world and include some high-risk countries with regards to human rights abuses. Some of them have been widely reported in the press, with headlines focussing predominantly on seafood supply chains in south-east Asia and Central and Latin America. Examples include incredibly long working hours which have led to workers allegedly consuming drugs, such as amphetamines, just to keep going.

In March 2019, Waitrose commissioned the Wilberforce Institute to map out the risks associated with labour and human rights in their seafood supply chains for prawns, scallops, mussels, squid, ray, herring milts and clams amongst others.

The Wilberforce Institute conducted a desk review and interviewed HR personnel and managers from 11 seafood companies in Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Peru and Vietnam. The aim of this was to understand worker recruitment and management practices and consider the risk that modern slavery and labour exploitation could take place. The 11 sites covered a workforce of 8900 permanent workers and 1100 temporary workers employed on farms, hatcheries and feeding centres.

The interviews provided Waitrose, and their direct UK based suppliers, with an overview of the specific labour and human rights risks affecting the selected seafood supply chains. Below is a summary of the findings which were based entirely on information provided by site managers:

Gender: 95% of the workforce identified on farms and hatcheries and feeding centres were male. It was therefore considered that in the scenarios being assessed, men were at a much higher risk of human rights abuses than women. One of the reasons given for the gender disparity was that farms and hatcheries are remotely located and the tasks performed by workers are more physically demanding. It is notable that at the packhouse, the gender ratio changes with women representing 50% of the workforce. Packhouses are located nearer to local communities and the work is less physical.

Recruitment methods: Most sites appear to use labour agencies for the purpose of recruiting workers, but not for managing them.

2 out of 11 sites (12%) reported that they used labour agencies and/or subcontractors in Indonesia and Vietnam at hatcheries and farms in more remotely located areas.

5 out of 11 sites (45%) reported that labour agencies carried out recruitment, but that they directly employ the workers once they arrive on site.

Hours: It was found that there was often a lack of transparency regarding working hours. This, in turn, often translated into a lack of transparency on worker’s wages as it is unclear what hourly wage is being paid and whether overtime premiums are being paid.

2 out of 11 sites (12%) had no transparency on working hours and therefore there was a high possibility that wages were being incorrectly calculated. 

5 out of 11 sites (45%) reported excessive working hours and working days. On one site, workers undertook four weeks of work without a day off.

Accommodation: Hatcheries and farms often house workers. The sites are remotely located and accommodation is provided at 7 of the 11 sites (64%).  These house hundreds of workers at a time and this is where the risk of forced labour is highest. Processing sites tend to be closer to the towns providing better transport links and communication with the outside world.

Loans: It is recognised by the farms that loans can be of benefit where there is no welfare structure to support the most vulnerable. The loan amount must not be more than can be reasonably paid back, as this would create debt bondage. Loans were offered in 7 out of 11 sites (64%).

Worker voice: The effectiveness of current worker voice/feedback mechanisms at the farm sites is questionable.

6 out of 11 sites (55%) reported that they had trade unions in place: 4 of these were in Vietnam and 1 in Indonesia. To date, in Vietnam, there is only one representative organisation of workers, the Vietnam General Confederation of Labour (VGCL), however in December 2019 the New Labour Code of Vietnam was passed, for enactment in January 2021. In order to observe Vietnam’s commitments under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and ILO Conventions, the New Labour Code recognises the right of employees to set up their own representative organisations. The 2020 ITUC Global Rights Index rated Indonesia as a 5, which means there is no guarantee of worker rights in the country. There is also evidence that arbitrary arrests of union representatives were made there in 2019.

In South America, there was no trade union representation at any of the farm sites. Ecuador and Honduras were both rated as a 5, which means that there is no guarantee of worker rights, whereas Chile and Peru were only slightly better with a rating of 4, meaning there are systematic violations of rights. Nicaragua did not have a rating.

There has been considerable unrest across South America in recent years, and at one site, workers (who are housed in employer’s accommodation) were not allowed to contact the ‘outside world’, which was considered by the farm management as a safety measure but could also be viewed as a forced labour indicator.

As a result of these risk assessments, Waitrose engaged direct suppliers, sharing the findings of the assessments with them and following up on the individual corrective actions taken at the farm sites. They also issued a call to action for the industry to collaborate on greater transparency within seafood supply chains as the best opportunity to tackle both illegal fishing and human rights abuses within the seafood sector. To this end, Waitrose signed the Environmental Justice Foundation’s 10 point Charter for Transparency in 2019. Waitrose also recognised that there was a clear need for further investigation and research into the human rights risks in seafood supply chains, especially at the hatcheries and farm sites which are often remotely located and appear to be high risk. Industry collaboration is required to conduct and fund risk assessments on sites in the highest risk countries and could be supported by experts on modern slavery such as those at the Wilberforce Institute.

Counting The Cost of Child Exploitation

Sophie Blanchard

MA student, Criminology and Crime Control 

Department of Criminology, University of Hull

s.l.blanchard-2017@hull.ac.uk

This blog takes a look at the recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) publication of statistics for child victims of modern slavery in the UK. This is the first publication of its kind by the ONS and draws on data from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), Police Recorded Crime (PRC), Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Department for Education’s Children in Need Census (CINC), The Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline, amongst other organisations. This ONS publication seeks to provide a deeper insight into the incidences of child victims of modern slavery in the UK.

There is no one data source that accurately quantifies the number of child victims in the UK. The NRM currently provides the best measure of potential victims, although it is known to be an undercount. In this blog we will look at the different sources that support the ONS publication, identify strengths and weaknesses of this type of data collection and aim to provide a summary of the data within it.

How many potential victims have been identified?

In 2021, 5,468 potential child victims were referred into the NRM. This shows a 9% increase from the previous year when 5,028 potential child victims were referred. The number of potential child victims of modern slavery in the UK has increased every year since the NRM was established in 2009. However, it can be argued that the increased number of potential victims being referred is not just because there are more victims but because there is increasing awareness and training amongst first responders.

Whilst the numbers went up for the NRM, the number of potential child victims of modern slavery identified by the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline decreased drastically. In 2021, the helpline received information about 194 potential child victims of modern slavery, which came from calls, web forms, and app entries. This shows a 43% decrease from the previous year when there were 340 potential victims, although the reasons for this are as yet unclear.

Figure 1: Comparison of PRC and NRM figures, April 2016 – March 2021

YearPolice Recorded Crime child victims of modern slaveryYearNational Referral Mechanism child victims of modern slavery
Apr 2016 to Mar 2017287Jan 2017 to Dec 20172,114
Apr 2017 to Mar 2018679Jan 2018 to Dec 20183,129
Apr 2018 to Mar 20191,327Jan 2019 to Dec 20194,554
Apr 2019 to Mar 20202,547Jan 2020 to Dec 20205,028
Apr 2020 to Mar 20213,239Jan 2021 to Dec 20215,468

When we compare the PRC statistics on child victims of modern slavery and the NRM figures in each 12-month period we observe there is a significant difference (Figure 1). This difference highlights a worrying gap in the amount of identified cases of potential child exploitation and the policing response to investigating these potential crimes.  

What are the ages of the victims?

Figure 2: Age of child victims, 2017-2021

Figure 2 shows the ages of child victims from PRC in England and Wales. The largest age group throughout years 2017 to 2021 are 13- to 16-year-olds. The statistics from April 2018 to March 2019 and April 2019 to March 2020 show the number of victims who were aged 13 to 16 almost doubled.

According to the NRM data for the year ending December 2021, over four-fifths, (82%) of the children who received a positive reasonable grounds decision from the NRM were aged 15 to 17 years old. This could simply be because more 15- to 17-year-olds are referred into the NRM and can be backed up by the PCR graph above which shows 13 to 17-year-olds being the most reported ages.

What are the genders of the victims?

Figure 3: Gender of potential child victims, 2021

According to the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline statistics, the most common gender of the 194 potential child victims of modern slavery reported to the helpline in 2021 were female (32%), even though the category of unknown genders is higher than both male and female victims (Figure 3). In contrast, the NRM 2021 end of year statistics appear to show that there were 4,314 male and 1,145 female potential child victims, a total of 5,459, leaving 9 potential child victims of unknown gender. These two contrasting data sets make it difficult to produce any useful overview of the gender of children who are both identified and referred into the NRM and of those that fall outside the scope of the NRM statistics. The ONS publication does not make specific reference to an overview of gender in this way because of this challenge. This is an obvious weakness of collecting and sharing data from multiple different data sets.

In the NRM, of those children who received a positive reasonable grounds decision in 2021, 79% were male and 21% were female.

What are the nationalities of the victims?

When looking at the NRM statistics for the nationalities of the potential child victims, UK nationals are the most commonly identified at 2,981. The five most common nationalities of child victims reflect the five most common nationalities of adult victims, if in a slightly different order (Figure 4).

Figure 4: The five most common nationalities of potential child victims, 2021

What types of exploitation were reported?

The main types of exploitation which have been reported through all organisations have been criminal exploitation (county lines are a significant factor here, especially for males) and sexual exploitation. In the NRM data set males were most likely to have experienced criminal exploitation (62%) and for females it is sexual exploitation (42%).

The Independent Child Trafficking Guardians service (ICTGS) showed that there were 27% more referrals in 2020 than in the previous year (555 in 2020 from 437 in 2019). From the data on exploitation types from October 2018 to December 2019, 379 males and 134 females were referred to ICTGS with a higher number of males who have been criminally exploited (216) than females (17).

Conclusion

Overall, the data that are used and reported within this publication from the ONS are not directly comparable due to the different time periods and the variable recording measures used by each organisation. Some data are separated and cannot be combined and compared with other statistics – not all jurisdictions of the UK are covered by some of the data sources, for example. However, despite the weaknesses and limitations that this report shows, it is a step in the right direction and does provide a somewhat better understanding of the extent of modern slavery in the UK.

In addition, this publication could serve as a useful foundation for gathering data from a much broader set of sources that lay outside the NRM statistics in the future. This would help to give us a far more accurate picture of how many children are being identified as being at risk of exploitation and not just those exclusively referred into the NRM.

We don’t know enough to effectively protect those who experience criminal exploitation

Dr Alicia Kidd

Lecturer in Modern Slavery

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

A.Kidd@hull.ac.uk

In this blog, produced for the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre [PEC], Dr Kidd looks at the defence for those who face criminal liability as a result of modern slavery under Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.

What do we know about how we protect those who experience criminal exploitation from further harm? People forced into criminal exploitation by their traffickers should be protected from the further harm of being charged for crimes they had no choice but to commit. The UK Modern Slavery Act offers protection for such cases, however, we don’t know if it’s doing its job effectively.

Criminal exploitation is a growing problem. In the UK in 2021, 6,100 people were identified as potential victims of criminal exploitation, 4,155 of whom had experienced only this form of exploitation (figures are collated from the data tables accessible via the End of Year Summary). This accounts for 48% of all potential cases of modern slavery identified in that year.

People who experience criminal exploitation inhabit an unusual position of being both a victim of modern slavery and a perpetrator of the crimes they were made to commit. This means that there can be confusion amongst professionals around how to best respond to such situations.

Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act offers a statutory defence for those who face criminal liability for a criminal act that they committed as a consequence of their modern slavery or human trafficking experience. It was designed to reassure people that they could give evidence without fear of being convicted for offences they had committed as part of their exploitation.

For people aged 18 or over, the Act states that a person is not guilty of an offence if they were compelled to commit it, if that compulsion is attributable to their exploitative situation, and if a reasonable person in the same situation with relevant characteristics would have no realistic alternative to committing it. Children are not guilty if the criminal act was a direct consequence of their exploitation and a reasonable person in the same situation with relevant characteristics would have also committed the act.

However, even seven years after the implementation of Section 45 with the Modern Slavery Act of 2015, it is difficult to gather an accurate picture of how the defence is understood and used in practice. The Modern Slavery PEC and the Wilberforce Institute are publishing a review of how this defence has been used so far

Our review has shown that, to date, there is very limited information available on the use of Section 45. There have been two independent reviews of the Modern Slavery Act which make reference to Section 45, and one report from the Office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner which was based on a call for evidence about Section 45 specifically. However, there is a lack of information regarding the commissioning process and methodologies of these reports.

Further, no quantitative data is collected on the use of Section 45, academic involvement in the reviews has been limited, and no one with lived experience was consulted for the reviews. These factors combined mean that producing accurate insights and robust generalisations about how Section 45 is used is impossible. We can’t currently generate a true picture of who is using the defence, what crimes they are using it for, or identify and rectify any barriers to success.

There is also a lack of legal clarity regarding how closely the offence should be connected to the modern slavery experience for the defence to be justified, with no clear definition offered within the Modern Slavery Act. Case law continues to develop and challenge how the defence should be implemented in practice. However, without adequate and consistent training for professionals, those who experience criminal exploitation could have truly differing experiences of using the defence, based entirely on the levels of knowledge that the lawyers and judges associated with their cases have on modern slavery and Section 45.

If used suitably, the statutory defence holds real potential to be able to support victims of modern slavery without punishing them for crimes they had no choice but to commit. However, much remains to be done to make sure that becomes a reality.

Based on available evidence, in order to improve both the use and understanding of Section 45 of the Modern Slavery Act, reviews of the legislation should offer clarity regarding the commissioning process and methodologies used, so that the reviews can accurately be recreated for future comparisons. They should also incorporate insights from academics working in relevant fields, and always seek the input of people with lived experience.

We need more data to be able to make informed decisions about improving Section 45. As a priority, the Government needs to collect quantitative data on the use and outcomes of the defence in order to understand the types of cases in which it is used, barriers to success, and how it might be vulnerable to misuse.

Finally, it’s clear that adequate training for police, lawyers and the judiciary is fundamental if Section 45 is to be used in the way it was intended: to serve the best interests of victims of modern slavery. This training should include insights into potential bias based on notions of the ‘ideal’ victim, so that people who were forced to commit crimes as a result of slavery or trafficking can be fully protected from further harm.

Victims of Modern Slavery in the UK 2021

Sophie Blanchard

MA student, Criminology and Crime Control 

Department of Criminology, University of Hull

s.l.blanchard-2017@hull.ac.uk

Sophie Blanchard is an MA student on the Criminal Justice and Crime Control course at the University of Hull. Her research focuses on the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and her MA dissertation project looks at the effectiveness of the NRM in identifying and protecting potential victims of modern slavery.  In this blog she summarises the 2021 Home Office Report on the NRM.

New statistics have been released, summarising information on people who have been identified as potential victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2021. The statistical bulletin provides a breakdown of the number of potential victims that were referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) or via the Duty to Notify process. It breaks down the data in a number of ways, including via the ages of the potential victims, as well as their nationalities, gender, and type of exploitation they experienced.

The NRM, which was set up in 2009, is the governmental framework used in the UK to identify and support potential victims of modern slavery who have been identified by a set list of First Responders. The Duty to Notify process collects data on adults who do not consent to be referred to the NRM (children are not required to give consent). Combined, these figures give an estimate of the picture of modern slavery in the UK.

The term ‘potential victims’ is used to denote that these are the figures relating to individuals referred into the NRM, or via the Duty to Notify process. These figures are likely to be significantly lower once individuals have been through the NRM’s two-tier decision making process to determine that, on the balance of probabilities, a competent authority believes them to meet the definition of being victims of modern slavery.

How many people have been identified?

In 2021, 12,727 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK were referred to the Home Office, which represents a 20% increase compared to the 10,601 potential victims referred in 2020. The number of potential victims of modern slavery in the UK has been increasing each year since 2014, apart from a slight decrease in 2020, commonly noted to be a result of the national lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic:

YearNumber of Referrals
20142,340
20153,266
20163,805
20175,145
20186,993
201910,627
202010,601
202112,727

The number of referrals received in 2021 has been the highest since the NRM began in 2009. However, the increase in referrals does not necessarily correlate with there being more victims, but could indicate that First Responders are improving at identifying potential victims. Reports via the Duty to Notify process alone have increased by 47% from 2020 with 3,190 reports of potential victims, which indicates a better awareness of this system amongst professionals.

Are the victims adults or children?

Of the potential victims identified, 848 (7%) were of unknown age, 6,411 (50%) were adults, which has increased from 48% in 2020, and 5,468 (43%) were children (minors, under the age of 18). After October 2019, when criminal exploitation was set as its own category of exploitation (where previously it was counted within labour exploitation) which made it easier to identify different types of exploitation that potential victims were being subjected to, referrals indicated that labour exploitation was the most common form of exploitation suffered by adults, while minors (under 18) were more likely to be victims of criminal exploitation. This year’s statistics continue this trend, with these still being the most common forms of exploitation for adult and child victims of modern slavery. In 2021, labour exploitation was the most reported form of exploitation amongst adult potential victims at 33%; 2,141 victims. The most referred exploitation for child potential victims was criminal exploitation at 49%; 2,689 cases.

What gender are the victims?

Of those 12,727 identified in 2021, 9,790 (77%) were male and 2,923 (23%) were female. The remaining 14 are categorised under ‘Not specified or unknown’ or ‘Other’. The statistics of genders of victims are similar to the previous years, but male potential victims have been increasing in referrals over the years. In 2021, 75% of adult potential victims (4,812) and 79% of child potential victims (4,314) were male, whilst 25% of adult potential victims (1,594) and 21% of child potential victims (1,145) were female. The majority of female potential victims, both adults and children, were victims of sexual exploitation.

What are the nationalities of the victims?

The most common nationalities of potential victims identified in the UK in 2021 were UK, Albanian and Vietnamese nationals respectively. UK nationals accounted for 3,952 (31%) of potential victims which decreased slightly from the previous year of 34% in 2020. Albanian nationals were the second most referred nationality with 2,511 (20%) which increased from 15% in 2020, and the third was Vietnamese with 991 (8%). Eritrean also had a notable increase in referrals in 2021, which increased from 395 (3%) in 2020, to 712 (6%) in 2021.

What types of exploitation have the victims experienced?

The data tables which provide the breakdown of information on referrals include a summary of the types of exploitation suffered by those identified as potential victims. These include criminal exploitation, labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and organ harvesting. The data summarises the number of referrals for each category of exploitation, including where multiple forms of exploitation were experienced. Looking at cases where only one form of exploitation was experienced, the most common form of exploitation identified in 2021 was criminal exploitation with 4,155 referrals. This has increased since becoming classed as a separate form of exploitation in October 2019, before which it was categorised within labour exploitation, making it harder to identify as a distinct form of exploitation. Labour exploitation made up 3,127 of the referrals in 2021 and sexual exploitation made up 1,266 referrals. However, a concerningly large number of referrals, 1,046 cases, were referred under ‘unknown or not specified’ exploitation which raises concerns over the level of detail provided within the referral forms.

The findings of the 2021 report make for difficult reading. If you have any questions, please contact Sophie at the email address above.

Conference Report: Climate change is driving modern slavery

Saphia Fleury

PhD student, Falling Through the Net Cluster

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

S.Fleury-2019@hull.ac.uk

The University of Hull is in a unique position to consider the effects of climate change as a driver of modern slavery, having two institutes dedicated to the study of these distinct but interconnected topics. On 11 October 2021 the Wilberforce Institute hosted a virtual conference to formulate an holistic approach to understanding this nexus. The event was supported by Anti-Slavery International and co-organised by Chris O’Connell of Dublin City University. Professor Trevor Burnard, the Wilberforce Institute’s director, welcomed the conference as ‘the start of several conversations about climate change and modern slavery’. Hull’s Energy and Environment Institute, a world-leader in researching sustainable solutions to climate change, was also represented at the event by its director, Dan Parsons. Professor Parsons noted how the UK in particular has a ‘moral responsibility to act’, given that as a country it has the fourth largest total historical cumulative CO2 emissions, and that much of the nation’s wealth has been built on a combination of slavery and high-emitting industrial practices.

Throughout the day, academics, practitioners and people with lived experiences of environmental change and slavery came together to share their research, practical solutions, and hopes for the future. Key-note speaker, the Bolivian Indigenous rights leader Wilma Mendoza Miro, described how various exploitative and ecologically damaging practices are encroaching on Indigenous lands. She concluded that a new approach to policy-making is urgently needed – one which puts human life, not wealth-creation, at the centre of decision-making.

Jasmine O’Connor OBE, the CEO of Anti-Slavery International, described how her organisation recognises the potential of climate change ‘to drive slavery on an unimaginable scale’. Anti-Slavery International is pushing for a just and fair transition to a carbon neutral world, which puts decent jobs at the heart of the transition.

Other participants described various exploitative labour contexts around the world, from highly polluting brick kilns in South Asia, to fishing off the coast of Ghana, to deforestation in Brazil. The theme of climate-induced migration and its risks came up numerous times. While slavery is often considered a problem of the past, and climate change a threat in the future, both issues are converging in the present day to create an ecological and human disaster.

The conference concluded with participants signing up to a letter directed at the President Delegate of the COP26 climate change meeting in Glasgow, highlighting the relationship between contemporary slavery, environmental destruction and climate change, and calling for a just transition.

The full report of the conference, including summaries of all the presentations and further discussion of the issues at stake, is now available as a free PDF here

Caption: Melbourne Global climate strike on Sep 20, 2019.


‘Anywhere Kids’ – a film for young people by young people

Andrew Smith

Coordinator, Humber Modern Slavery Partnership

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

a.smith9@hull.ac.uk

The Humber Modern Slavery Partnership, based at the Wilberforce Institute, has teamed up with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Humberside and local award-winning production company My Pockets to produce an innovative animation and resource pack for parents, teachers and carers to educate 10–12 year-olds on the dangers of child criminal and sexual exploitation.

The OPCC fund and oversee a local campaign called Not In Our Community that aims to raise awareness of child exploitation, both criminal and sexual. In addition to successful social media campaigns, they also produce resources and stories based on real life events that are used throughout educational and professional settings to raise awareness that helps protect young people.

My Pockets has vast experience in making innovative and heartfelt films, music, digital campaigns, and social art projects. In 2008 the company was invited to Downing Street to meet the Prime Minister in recognition of their work inspiring young people.

‘Anywhere Kids’ uses aspects of real stories from real victims in our area to reveal how young people are groomed, coerced, and trapped into exploitation such as drug dealing, forced criminality and sexual exploitation. The film seeks to open a dialogue with younger children about some of the dangers they may face online or in person and how they might protect themselves from being targeted by exploiters and organised criminal gangs.

The film is narrated by the female character called Aiesha, a young person who lives in our area, and her story is very real. Aiesha wanted to tell her story in a way that would help other children stay safe from sexual exploitation and abuse. From beginning to end this brave and inspirational young lady has been a constant motivation for all who have worked on the film. We are absolutely sure that when other young people hear her story, they will not only be able to relate to Aiesha but they will feel more confident and empowered to stay safe or ask for help.  

The resource pack will help children explore elements of the film by using specially designed question and activity cards that promote critical thinking, group discussions, debate, and even creative activities such as drawing and painting. The resource pack also contains useful information for teachers, parents, and carers such as the definitions of child criminal and sexual exploitation, signs to spot, support available and specific advice on how to work with children who make disclosures or have concerns. The hope is that this resource will empower teachers to be confident in facilitating conversations with their pupils, give children the confidence to speak up, and help parents to understand the risks of this destructive crime.

As coordinator of the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership I recognise that ‘finding new ways of reaching young people in Humberside is a top priority for us and our partners. Seeing first-hand the devastating effects this despicable type of crime has on young people and their families we are determined to bring partners together to take the fight straight to the criminals and organised criminal gangs who are relentless in finding new ways to exploit and harm our young people for their own gain.

‘These criminals destroy our children’s lives for profit, they tear families apart and show little regard for the lasting damage they often do. As this issue becomes increasingly complex, we must work hard to find more suitable and lasting solutions by which to safeguard our young people. This must always begin with education and empowerment. By giving young people the knowledge and confidence to push back against those who would take advantage of them we are building the foundations of more resilient communities that drive out CCE [Child Criminal Exploitation] and say no to all forms of slavery.

With input from colleagues at the Wilberforce Institute the resource pack will act as a template for discussing other difficult subjects with young adults and children in the future.

  1. You can view the ‘Anywhere Kids’ animation here
  2. Click here to visit the Fearless.org website
  3. The full range of Not In Our Community resources can be accessed at www.notinourcommunity.org along with information on the help and support available in Humberside