Many of us are educated on the issue of slavery during our scholastic career; the narrative of a young slave subject to the daily grind of hard labour by a tyrannous slave master is one that we are all familiar with; but we associate such a story to the past. We presume that the issue of slavery has long since been eradicated. It’s no longer an issue that directly concerns us and our lives. And those of us who are wise enough to acknowledge that it must still occur believe it occurs in the non-western world; far enough that we can distance ourselves from the issue; convince ourselves that if we don’t physically see it then it doesn’t concern us. We are wrong. Modern day slavery is a growing issue and it’s an issue that concerns us all. Modern day slavery is all around us. It doesn’t occur in a far-off land but right on our very doorsteps: in our shops, in our neighbourhoods; in our streets. Human trafficking is our issue. It concerns us all.

The Home Office defines human trafficking as ‘the victim [being] coerced or deceived into a situation where they are exploited.’ Shockingly, Croydon has the 3rd largest sex industry in London (Sex in the city - Poppy Project). It’s estimated that over 60 brothels are in operation within the borough and this number shows no signs of decreasing any time soon. Although the most thriving, sexual exploitation and prostitution is not the only sector that is heavily populated with trafficked employees. Common areas of labour exploitation include factories, food processing, restaurants, labouring and agriculture. Many young women, men and children are enticed to travel to the UK with the prospect of better job opportunities and a new life however when they arrive the conditions they find themselves in are further from anything they could have imagined. They are forced to work in illegal establishments for little to no pay. The treatment they receive is horrific: many have their passports and other forms of identification removed. They are beaten and abused if they refuse to comply with the rules set by their employers. They cannot leave; they cannot speak, if anyone was to find out about their situation the trafficker would punish them. They are slaves to a system that shouldn’t be in place.

‘The essence of human trafficking is that the victim is coerced or deceived into a situation where they are exploited.’

It is estimated that ‘13,000 victims’ of human trafficking live within the UK, according to the Home Office, with only 130 convictions. This number has undoubtedly increased since the investigation in 2015. The growing number highlights that fact that this issue and those subject to it are not receiving the help they need. So, what can you do to help? CCAT – Croydon Community Against Trafficking – is a union of concern citizens, faith and community groups that actively combat the injustice of human trafficking within the borough of Croydon. The organisation launched the campaign Spot the Signs to help the local community recognise certain signs that may suggest that en individual has been trafficked or is a trafficker. The signs include: • Faces that can be seen at windows, expressions frightened or stressed; the individual is never seen smiling and if so their expression is strained.

• Frequent visitors to residential homes, often a number of men arriving and leaving at unusual times in the day.

• Cars or minibuses collecting foreign nationals at odd times.

• Young girls seemingly despondent who live with older, obviously unrelated males.

• Low-cost price deals involving low-cost labour and predominantly deal in cash.

For any further information on how you can spot the signs of human trafficking visit: If you suspect that trafficking is happening in your local area you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700, where you can report it anonymously and receive impartial advice.