WEST Yorkshire Police’s Modern Slavery Team is appealing to local communities to help in the fight against domestic slavery after a 50 per cent increase in reports of the crime.

Modern Day Slavery comes in many different forms – with victims usually forced into work that usually involves long hours and very little pay.

The victim’s ‘employment’ can often be based in a factory, other commercial premises or as a sex worker.

But domestic slavery – where victims are literally slaves for their ‘masters’ and often their families – is the most hidden of all types – because it happens in the home, away from other people, literally behind closed doors.

The Force has improved the training given to officers and other front-line staff, helping to increase awareness.

And it is helping – with a 50 per cent increase in reports of domestic servitude in 2020 (calendar year) compared to 2019.

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Oz Khan of West Yorkshire Police is leading efforts to highlight the crime in communities.

“This one of the few crimes where an increase in reports is in many ways a positive because it means more of the crimes happening are being reported to us.

“We know that this is a very under reported crime – and the reports we have had still remain very low - we believe these figures to be just the tip of the iceberg.

“Quite often the only witnesses are the perpetrators and that is why we have taken great strides, through our Programme Precision team, to raise awareness amongst our own staff and with partners.

“By knowing the signs of domestic servitude and by raising awareness of it, members of the public can help us to rescue potential victims from a miserable existence.

“We need to break the cycle where some people think it is acceptable to treat other human beings in this way. It is not in any way shape or form.

“Neither is it acceptable for people to ‘turn a blind eye’ to what is happening – potentially in their house, on their street or in their community.

“I want people to be more aware of what is happening – sometimes in their own families or in their neighbourhood.

“I therefore want to appeal directly to the communities of West Yorkshire to know some of the signs to look out for and to report any suspicions they have to us.

“Because of the hidden nature of this type of offending I need people to help and be our “eyes and ears” about what is happening where they live and report any suspicions they may have.

“It might turn out to be nothing. Or it could be that final piece of the jigsaw that helps us rescue a victim from a life of slavery.”

Potential signs to look out for:

• No independent income or access to ID documents

• Accompanied when outside the house - Little independence

• Showing signs of trauma - Physical and emotional

• Completing all of the household chores, often for several family members and unable to refuse - Being “on call” 24/7 - Could range from household chores to caring for family members

• Not eating with the rest of the family and not having the same quantity or quality of food - Show signs of being malnourished

• Not allowed unsupervised contact with own family members or friends

• Restricted access to bathroom or to other areas of the house

• Not allowed to seek independent medical treatment (or family accompany as ‘interpreter’) - Could show signs of untreated injuries - Have no bedroom or bed - Could be a very small room or even cupboard space, could sleep on the floor with only a blanket - Have no privacy

• In spousal exploitation cases - husband can openly have a relationship with a girlfriend.

• Conditioned not to engage with the authorities - Fearful of the authorities

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), and national lead PCC on tackling modern slavery chaired the National Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Network (NATMSN), said: “As training and awareness of these issues carries on developing I’m sure the police and other key support agencies will continue to rescue an increasing number of victims, whilst also disrupting and bringing more perpetrators to justice of what are vile human rights abuses.

“However, we cannot afford to wait, we need everyone’s help in reporting potential victims that may be hidden away within our communities.

“By taking the time to familiarise themselves with the signs and indicators, the public really could play a big part in saving someone from a lifetime of abuse.

“I would particularly appeal to those in professions who encounter people in a domestic setting, delivery drivers, tradespeople, health and local authority workers who may engage with victims.

“The ultimate goal remains to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery. There’s a long road ahead but everyone that helps makes it that bit more achievable and it’s good to see that West Yorkshire Police Modern Slavery Team is at the forefront of this work.”

T/ACC Khan added: “Please stop and think. Do you see people in your local neighbourhood who may match some of the above descriptions?

“If so please pick up the phone and give us a call.”

Call police on 101. In an emergency / a crime is in progress dial 999.

Alternatively you can ring the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121700 or visit the website – modernslaveryhelpline.org

Visit West Yorkshire Police's website about Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking.

For further information visit Spot the Signs of Human Trafficking - STOP THE TRAFFIK Spot the signs of human trafficking | Hope for Justice Spot the Signs of Modern Slavery and Exploitation | Unseen (unseenuk.org)