Human Trafficking: modern slavery is on the rise and is closer than you think.

Isabel Aruna, Online Politics Editor, gives an insight into the shocking statistics of human trafficking.


“Modern slavery is real. It is happening in our communities. An unseen crime, it hides in take-aways, hotels, car washes, nail bars and private homes”. This statement is claimed by Unseen, a human trafficking charity in the UK. Unseen reports the Home Office’s prediction there are as many as 13,000 victims in the UK alone. This is appalling.

I think human trafficking is commonly misunderstood. It has multiple facets and does not have to involve crossing international borders. It is the illegal movement of people; the trade of humans for the purpose of exploitation.  According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, that includes “the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”. The top six most common countries of origin for potential victims of trafficking, in 2014, were Romania, Albania, UK, Slovakia, Poland and Nigeria, so this is clearly an issue for our country and needs to be prioritised.

For example, BBC News commented that the National Crime Agency reports there has been a significant increase in reports of sexually exploited children from 38 to 128 in the “wake of high-profile abuses cases in Rotherham and elsewhere”. The Rotherham scandal revealed the alarming depths and atrocities of human trafficking to one of the most vulnerable sectors of our society: children. We do not live in a utopian world, but the standard of care we should strive for, especially regarding the protection of children, should be exceptionally high. However, the scandal revealed that “at least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013”. This is absolutely unacceptable and what is equally as disturbing is how long it has gone unnoticed, underplayed and unpunished despite the three previous inquiries by the borough. These enquiries failed to reveal the truths as the team feared being labelled “racist” if they focused on the victims’ descriptions of the abusers as mostly “Asian” men.

This, in my opinion, is inexcusable, BBC News commented that Professor Alexis Jay, who wrote the latest report, said there has been “collective failures by the council’s leadership, senior managers had “underplayed” the scale of the problem and South Yorkshire Police had failed to prioritise the issue”.  How on earth can it have been allowed to be “underplayed” by our police that children as young as 11 were made to witness brutal rape or doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight or threatened with guns and told they would be next if they told anyone. This is monstrous and the psychological effect of this is permanent; it cannot be reversed. It is not enough that now the scandal has come to light and the hidden truths revealed that the police have apologised.  They need to do better – our society needs to do better to tackle this injustice.

Monday the 11th of January marks Human Trafficking Awareness Day and it is imperative that people are more aware of this issue as children are not the only victims, it effects men and women of all different ages, nationalities and ethnicities and is not just limited to sexual exploitation. This is a global issue that needs to be addressed; as President Obama proclaimed, “our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time”.