Modern slavery: Traffickers are targeting UK’s homeless

Common recruitment tactics include exploiting various vulnerabilities like substance dependencies and language barriers.

UK Homeless
Researchers say traffickers often gain people's trust at soup kitchens and drop-ins and trick them into slavery through false promises of success and money [File: Reuters]

London, United Kingdom – Homeless people are among the victims in seven percent of all reported modern slavery cases in Britain, according to research that was released by the anti-slavery charity Unseen on Friday.

Unseen said human traffickers were “purposefully targeting homeless people for exploitation” and also making them commit crimes, most commonly through forced begging.

Homeless people were involved in 276 cases of modern slavery reported to the Modern Slavery Helpline since Unseen set up the dedicated hotline in October 2016.

Labour abuse was the main form of exploitation, accounting for 54 percent of cases and three-quarters of victims recorded by the hotline, which receives calls from the public, police, activists, healthcare professionals and modern slaves directly.

Enslaving the vulnerable

“Traffickers often gain people’s trust at soup kitchens and drop-ins and trick them into slavery through false stories of success and money,” said Andrew Smith, chief executive of the charity Hull Homelessness.

Britain is home to at least 136,000 modern slaves, according to the Global Slavery Index by rights group Walk Free Foundation. That figure is 10 times higher than a government estimate from 2013.

The manager of the Modern Slavery Helpline, Rachel Harper, said common recruitment tactics included targeting various vulnerabilities such as poverty, substance dependencies and language barriers.

The study also showed a high number of people escape from modern slavery only to find themselves homeless.

More than 350 of the potential victims in cases reported to the hotline between October 2016 and April 2019 were homeless either before, during or after they escaped captivity.

Unseen runs safe houses for survivors and works with businesses, police, government, and others to end slavery.

Source: Reuters