More than 70 child victims of modern slavery rescued in Cambridgeshire in space of a year

More than 70 child victims of modern slavery have been rescued in Cambridgeshire in the space of a year.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 5:00 am
Updated Monday, 18th October 2021, 6:08 am
Cambridgeshire Police

In a 12-month period ending in June this year Cambridgeshire police referred 137 people to a national scheme to help victims of modern slavery – 71 of them children.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a Government scheme which helps potential victims of modern slavery by ensuring they receive appropriate support.

Today (18 October) is Anti-Slavery Day, with organisations working together to highlight the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking.

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Modern slavery can take many forms, including forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and criminal exploitation.

Many of the child victims are trapped in the dark world of county lines drug dealing. These children are coerced into selling drugs for older dealers with a promise of a better life, but become trapped in extremely dangerous situations and are often subject to threats or intimidation.

Forced labour can happen anywhere, but industries where cases have been particularly prominent include in agriculture, nail bars and hand car washes.

Signs of modern slavery include people:

- seeming overly tired, withdrawn or avoiding eye contact

- of school age being in the community and not education

- not having suitable equipment or clothing for the job they are doing

- looking unkempt or showing signs of physical abuse

- not being able to come and go as they wish

- being unpaid or paid very little

- working excessively long or unusual hours

Superintendent Ian Middleton said: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are horrendous crimes, with people trapped in desperate situations where they feel as though there is no way out.

“Slavery is not something consigned to history – it is happening in 2021 and right here in Cambridgeshire.

“Often those trapped in slavery either don’t recognise they are victims, or are so terrified of their captors that they don’t see a way out. That’s where the public come in. The signs of modern slavery can be subtle, but we need people to be aware of them and report any concerns.

“Children who are enslaved in the world of county lines are often under very significant duress. We’re urging the public to report any concerns they have for the welfare of any child they see in circumstances that do not feel right. Ignoring such concerns is never the right thing to do and acting on them may just save a young person from significant abuse and harm.

“Whether an adult or child is involved, if something doesn’t seem quite right then please let us know. We’d much rather investigate and find everything is legitimate than have someone trapped in an awful situation.”