We tend to forget the number of modern empires and nations that were founded on the backs of slaves. The subject is one we tend to avoid, but the practice of slavery has never disappeared. Instead, it has changed from an open practice to one shrouded in secrecy. Even today, in the UK, thousands of people search for a new life only to end up in the hands of slavers who force them into prostitution, factory labor, and even maintaining illicit marijuana grow operations.
While women are smuggled in to serve in the sex trade, or if they are lucky, a legitimate business, a lack of English language often means that they remain tied to their employers, rather than striking out on their own. Often, the trip burdens them with a sizeable debt which must be worked off, and less scrupulous smugglers often make this process take years.
Men who are smuggled into the country are usually put to work in a different sector. In this investigation, one man was taken from an orphanage to pay off a family debt and kept locked in a flat tending to illegal cannabis. The work was grueling, with only a small sleeping bag to catch a few hours sleep. The flat had no furniture, only rows of plants and the fumes of chemical fertilizers. Another man had actually contacted a grower online, hoping for a job that would help him get on his feet. Instead, he feared not only his employer but the police and armed thugs who would steal his crops.
In 2015, the government redefined the law on slavery, changing the definition from one of just chains and servitude to include any labor, criminality, or service forced through threats, deception, or violence. The scale of the problem has become so large that they even appointed an anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Highland. Numbers show that the largest populations of slaves come from Albania, Romania, Nigeria, Vietnam, and even from Britain itself. 97 different countries have been identified that have supplied over 13,000 slaves to the market for human cargo.
Can modern society ever completely eliminate the need for slave labor? From sweatshop labor to pauper’s wages, does slavery change its guise over time? Is it alive and well where you live? Share your thoughts on social media or in the comments below.