Modern Slavery remains a priority

Despite the ongoing pandemic, North Wales Police are reminding the public that modern slavery remains one of our priorities.

Although many shops and businesses have been closed during lockdown, we have continued to work with partners to adapt and ensure a ‘Business As Usual’ approach to respond to any reports of slavery and exploitation and to support victims too.

However, now that shops and businesses are beginning to reopen, it is vital that the public are aware of how people can become vulnerable to becoming a victim of modern slavery and also how to spot the signs that someone is a victim themselves.

DS Richard Sidney said: “Officers remain vigilant and we continue to respond to reports and concerns from members of the public. It is vital for everyone to know the signs of modern slavery and if you spot something suspicious, report it.”

Who can you tell?

The amount of Modern Slavery referrals are on the rise in Wales, with 329 NRM referrals across Wales in 2019. 71% of these referrals were for children.

DS Sidney continued: “We recognise that victims are not always comfortable speaking to us, which is why we work closely with partner agencies who can offer support to victims. This has not stopped during lockdown and continues to evolve as the situation does. We have adapted so that our multiagency meetings are now held online, allowing us to communicate effectively with each other and give the most appropriate support to victims who are referred.”

North Wales Police work with partners such as the GLAA, Crimestoppers, Barnardo’s, Bawso and Victim Support to seek and support victims of Modern Slavery.

Ella Rabaiotti, National Manager for Crimestoppers in Wales, said: “Crimestoppers received over 1,400 pieces of information on modern slavery and trafficking last year and our promise of anonymity is absolutely key to giving people the confidence to come forward. If you spot the signs of slavery and exploitation in North Wales, you can give information to our independent charity 100% anonymously. Tell Crimestoppers what you know anonymously on 0800 555 111 or use the anonymous online form at Crimestoppers-uk.org.”

Crimestoppers are currently running a UK Wide campaign #Slaveryonyourdoorstep to encourage people to look for victims of modern slavery whilst visiting places, such as nail bars and car washes, and to report them anonymously.

Kamille Fijalkowski, Modern Day Slavery Caseworker at Victim Support, said: “Support for victims of Modern Slavery has not changed; only the nature of its delivery. The support that Victim Support can give to victims of Modern Slavery includes: Help to secure accommodation and links to other key services, provide support through referral services, provide advocacy, offer emotional support and help clients reintegrate into society to minimise their chances of being re-trafficked.

“Members of the public can help by building their knowledge of Modern Slavery and its various manifestations. There are fantastic resources online and groups can always request training sessions from one of the many agencies, ourselves included, who are offering support to survivors. If a member of the public has reason to believe that someone they know is being exploited, they shouldn’t hesitate to contact us by calling the support line on 08081689111 or the North Wales Victim Helpline on 0300 30 30 159”.

Wanjiku Mbugua, Head of Regional Services at Bawso, said: “Our service has continued to remain active in spite of the pandemic. We have been receiving referrals for victims of modern slavery during this time without a reduction. Refuge and outreach support is still available. We continue to provide support with accommodation, advocacy with legal issues, counselling services, support with mental and physical healthcare, substance misuse and more.

“Support is mainly provided over the phone and also via virtual means where service users had the relevant technology. Where appropriate, meetings with clients have taken place outdoors, whilst maintaining social distancing and adhering to government guidelines. Members of the public can make referrals to BAWSO if they suspect anyone is a victim of modern slavery by calling our helpline on 0800 731 8147.”