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This is how homeless people are getting trapped in modern slavery

The Big Issue speaks to the National Crime Agency to find out how vulnerable homeless people are targeted forced into hard labour

Modern slavery is a big problem – it affects 40.3 million people globally and an estimated 136,000 people in the UK, according to the Global Slavery Index.

Those numbers may be shocking – but that is nothing compared to the ease with which homeless people living on British streets can fall into it.

In this week’s Big Issue magazine, we find out just that as well as what is being in done to tackle it and how Big Issue vendors are crucial “eyes and ears” of the police.

People feel that they are trapped in these circumstances and find it very difficult to leave because pay day becomes about hope. They are living in hope of that

National Crime Agency Tactical Advisor Sian Turner lifted the lid on how homeless people are approached and, before they know it, can find themselves trapped in a murky world of hard labour, pain and living in squalor and fear.

“What happens is that the men in the family go to places where vulnerable people gather, such as a homeless shelter or hostel, and they will turn up in their white vans and offer employment, typically £50 a day, as well as accommodation,” says Turner.

“It is as simple as that. From there, they are driven in the back of the van to a site and it is from there that the grooming process begins.

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“They will be given a static caravan to live in and their personal effects will be taken away, their head will be shaved and they will be given a boiler suit-like uniform. They will be introduced to the family and then they will be put to work.

“That can be anything from block paving driveways to cutting trees and for the first few days they will be paid for their work and then there will be a period of time when they will not be paid. When they ask to be paid that is when the assaults will start.

“This type of grooming is called traumatic bonding. People feel that they are trapped in these circumstances and find it very difficult to leave because pay day becomes about hope. They are living in hope of that.”

The National Crime Agency have just released the latest annual National Referral Mechanism figures, showing the number of people referred to authorities as potential victims of modern slavery in 2018. The stats show that a 36 per cent rise on 2017 with 6,993 potential victims flagged up last year.

To read more on modern slavery and how to tackle it, pick up a copy of this week’s Big Issue, available now from vendors and The Big Issue Shop.

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Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Winter. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Winter.

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