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The 9 Warning Signs That Modern Slaves Are Hidden in 'Plain Sight’

Members of the public could be “unwittingly” hiring the victims of modern slavery who are hidden in “plain sight” across the world. 

Victims of forced servitude and labour could be washing your car, serving your meals, working in the hotels where you stay, painting your nails, and even working in your home. 

But there are series of signs to watch out for, released by Crimestoppers UK, that could help officials in the fight against modern slavery. 

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“Being forced into domestic servitude, being trafficked for work, or subject to exploitation is a horrendous fate, and one most of us can’t even imagine — but the sad truth is that there is a good chance that modern slavery is taking place in the towns, cities, and villages where we live,” Simon Blackburn, of the UK’s Local Government Association, told the BBC

But most householders are “unaware of the hell” victims were living through, he warned, saying that many victims are hidden in “plain sight.” 

Across England and Wales, local councils are stepping up efforts to tackle modern slavery, following a rise in the numbers of victims the are reporting. 

The number of cases reported to law enforcement by local authorities rose by nearly 50% in just a year in Britain — up to 1,322 cases reported between July and September 2017.

Read more: 'Devious' Nail Bar Owner Jailed for Forcing Trafficked Girls into Slavery in Britain

In the US, according to a report released last year by Polaris, an organisation that fights human trafficking and helps survivors, modern slavery is a problem in restaurants, bars, and food trucks, as well as nail salons, hotel work, and domestic service.

The report was described as a “major breakthrough in the field,” by Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris. 

It’s the largest data set on human trafficking in the US ever compiled and publicly analysed — including over 32,000 reports of human trafficking, and over 10,000 reports of labour exploitation. 

According to the report, which was based on calls to the organisation’s hotline, people from places Vietnam, China, Mexico, and Guatemala, lured by promises of a better live, were instead being trapped in forced labour conditions.

Read more: Seduced Into Slavery — How a Mexican Family Became Sex Traffickers

Of the more than 1,700 cases involving the US restaurant industry, nearly 20% involved children. 

Traffickers often exploit language barriers, according to the report, and those who try to escape may be threatened with deportation, or violence against themselves or their families.

Read more: The UK Is a 'World Leader' in Fighting Slavery — But There's Still More Work to Do

But members of the public can play a vital role in the fight. 

Signs to look out for, according to Crimestoppers UK, are: 
  • Appearing scared, avoiding eye contact, or being untrusting.
  • Showing signs of injury, abuse, and malnourishment.
  • The person may look unkempt, often in the same clothing and have poor hygiene.
  • They may be under the control and influence of others. 
  • Living in cramped, dirty, and overcrowded accommodation.
  • Lacking appropriate clothing or safety equipment for the work they are doing.
  • They may have no access to identification, like a passport or driving licence.
  • The person may be collected very early, or returned late at night, on a regular basis.
  • They may be isolatd from the local community and their family. 

The UK government estimates there are between 10,000 and 13,000 potential modern slavery victims in the UK. But that figure has been described by anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland as “far too modest.” 

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