From Asia’s prawn industry to the ports of Scotland: slavery is still a problem

October 09, 2019 by Mark Dunn

Police are currently investigating claims of human trafficking and slavery in Britain's fishing industry.  While there may be increased public awareness of the problem of slavery in Britain as the Modern Slavery Bill ebbs through the House of Lords, on the seas surrounding the country the diminished capacity of regulators to police the industry leaves victims open to abuse with little or no recourse to justice.

Searching for the most up-to-date anti-slavery news using the Nexis database reveals more than 80 articles referencing individual reports of slavery around Britain in the past month alone.  An exclusive report by The Independent tells the story of Henry Mahinay, a 56 year old Filipino taxi driver who was forced to continue to work aboard a fishing vessel off the coast of Scotland after all but amputating his finger.  With blood dripping from his arm, Mahinay continued to work aboard the fishing vessel for five more hours before being abandoned at the quayside of a Scottish port by the vessel's captain.

Mr Mahinay's story is familiar; swindled in his own country, promised a better life in Britain, pushed from boat to boat and offered little in the way of remuneration.  As recently as June this year, another LexisNexis blog discussed the repercussions of supply chain visibility issues following slavery in the Asian prawn industry.  Now it seems that supply chains much closer to home have become tainted with trade in vulnerable individuals.

According to a study recently released by the National Crime Agency (NCA) nearly 3000 people were trafficked as slaves in the UK in 2013. Despite the recent media profile of this topic, NCA's study revealed a 22% jump in human trafficking year-on-year.

These reports and figures demonstrate that increased vigilance needs to be extended to sourcing in Britain.  Although slavery is not by any means new to the UK, slavery gangs are now expanding their businesses out of the sex trade and into factories and industries that are hard to regulate.  With comprehensive new legislation looming, businesses need to support the anti-slavery effort and change their thinking before it's too late.

Related blogs

The Modern Slavery Bill

End notes

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