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Police Commissioner warns that modern day slavery doesn’t disappear during Covid-19

ACTING Police and Crime Commissioner, Ray Bisby is today (21st May 2020) urging people that help and support is still available for victims of modern day slavery, despite Covid-19.

As lockdown begins to ease the Commissioner is reminding people that labour exploitation does not cease to exist during a global pandemic and is calling on people to report suspected cases.

In 2019, there were 71 modern day slavery crimes in Cambridgeshire alone, an increase of 37% from 2018.

Historically traffickers have been known to con businesses into employing victims of modern day slavery under false pretences, while pocketing victims’ pay. Moreover, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton warned earlier this month that traffickers may also take advantage of vulnerable people with businesses rushing to recruit new workers as the country emerges from lockdown.

Earlier this year, more than 30 local businesses attended a free workshop hosted by the Commissioner to help them spot the signs of modern slavery.

Acting Police and Crime Commissioner, Ray Bisby, said:

“Sadly, modern day slavery and human trafficking continues to exist in our county and we all have a part to play in reporting any suspicions we have of vulnerable people being exploited.

“As we begin to plan our Covid-19 recovery and adjust to a different way of life, we all must be vigilant against traffickers looking to potentially exploit the circumstances presented by Covid-19.”

A potential victim of modern day slavery may display signs of the following:

  • Look malnourished, unkempt or have untreated injuries
  • Show fear or anxiety
  • Not be in possession of their passport or travel documents as these documents are being held by someone else

In Cambridgeshire and Peterborough victims can access free emotional and practical support from two Specialist Victim and Witness Care Co-ordinators based in the Victim and Witness Hub.

The staff, who are funded through the Commissioner’s office supported 427 victims from 17 nationalities as a result of modern day slavery or domestic abuse (this included 397 victims of violence) between April 2019 and March 2020. The support was provided in an outreach capacity and over the phone and this work continues during lockdown with both staff working virtually to ensure victims remain supported. Employers can also seek advice if they are unsure what to do next once they identify a potential victim.

Alina Jablonske, Specialist Victim and Witness Care Co-ordinator said:

“In these challenging times we continue to support modern day slavery victims. If anything, the pandemic highlights the importance of protecting the most vulnerable. It is essential that businesses continue identifying potential victims of modern day slavery and know that we can provide support and advice for what to do next.”

For more information, please visit the Cambridgeshire Victim Services website.

If you suspect someone is being exploited or is a victim of modern day slavery in Cambridgeshire, report it by calling 101.