Coffee House

Modern slavery: it happens here

11 March 2013

10:01 AM

11 March 2013

10:01 AM

Slowly but surely, British court cases are revealing a once great nation of abolitionists to be a shadow of its former self.  We often celebrate the nineteenth century anti-slavery movement and its precious victory.  We hail their achievement and honour our Parliament’s noblest hour.

But like weeds in a neglected garden, slavery has returned.  Its roots remained intact – inherent in humanity’s darkest weaknesses.  Today, it is aggressive and hidden.  It lives in the shadows of Britain’s cities, towns and villages.  And as this morning’s Centre for Social Justice report reveals, too often it thrives uncontested.

In the hands of international bureaucrats the problem has become better known as ‘human trafficking’.  But just like ‘collateral damage’, these words mask the terror, injustice and nature of abuse inflicted on those who are its victims.

Across and within UK borders, vile child and sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude trap people in terrible torture.  Enslaved in cauldrons of abuse, many are threatened with rape, death or brutal attacks on their families back home at the slightest hint of rebellion.  There are growing numbers of British-born victims too.  School girls moved around the UK at weekends – raped numerous times a night – and back in the classroom on Monday.  This is a modern day underworld.


Behind closed doors, these victims are voiceless and petrified.  Most, of course, are not free to walk away.  And those who can often don’t, fearing immediate arrest or deportation. And those who do escape receive inadequate support.

We are losing the battle.  Ministers and officials are clueless about the scale of this exploitation, largely because the national identification system is not trusted by those who are supposed to use it. Police officers, social workers, health professionals and prison governors regularly fail to recognise slavery victims when they come face-to-face with them.  Police officers arresting a female victim who had escaped from a brothel because she didn’t have a passport is one such example of this.

And when someone does manage to pick the right fight against the criminals rather than the victims, our messy legislative framework stops them in their tracks.

It is the blind leading the blind.  This breeds political complacency and cosiness.  Many in authority defend the status quo and argue all is well.  But palpably it is not. And it is irresponsible to pretend otherwise.

William Wilberforce once famously stood up in the House of Commons and said: ‘You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.’  How pertinent those words remain in 2013.  So who is prepared to stand up and say the same today?

Christian Guy is Managing Director of the Centre for Social Justice.

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Show comments
  • David Webb

    This is multiculturalism. The victims are voiceless as it is considered more important to promote the great demographic dispossession of England than it is to stamp out human trafficking.

  • Chris Cut Wars McCabe

    Home-grown slavery exists as the ‘Workfare’ scam, which gets free labour for large firms, & destroys paid jobs.

  • Dogsnob

    No, sorry, the roots were not ‘left intact’. They were entirely ripped out. Then without anyone of us being asked, fresh roots were imported.

    It’s called multi-culturalism and the Spectator loves it.

  • Reconstruct

    OK, I’ve downloaded the report to see if the research can sustain the melodrama of this (piece. It cannot – so far as one can tell, there is nothing to support the repeated assertions, both overt and implied, that this is a problem which is mushrooming in Britain in a way which only CSJ is prepared to face.

    The CSJ’s report is anecdote-heavy but almost entirely data-free. What data is presented suggests: about 110 cases of domestic servitude; about 260 cases of labour exploitation; about 380 cases of sexual exploitation and around 45 cases of ‘unknown exploitation’. In other words, about 800 cases. The report is 222 pages long (more than a quarter of a page for every victim) and costs £35.

    CSJ asserts (assumes?) this data is a significant underestimate, but is unwilling to make its own estimate ‘since any number will be misleading and inaccurate.’

    It feels wrong to criticize CJS, since no one can doubt that its heart is in the right place. But I think we should feel free to criticize, even in this case, because the panic-mongering and denunciation of Britain as a society presented by Christian Guy seems ludicrously over-wrought, and, actually, pretty offensive.

    The only numbers we have seem very clearly to suggest that the very nasty and vicious problem of modern-day slavery is infinitesimally small, involving roughly a thousandth of one percent of Britain’s population. This simply isn’t the basis on which to assert that ‘the once great nation of abolitionists’ is a ‘shadow of its former self’, let alone the deeper and more damning claim that, like some British original sin, the ‘roots remained intact’, and consequently ‘we are losing the battle.’

    Rather, the obvious conclusion is that what CSJ tracks is massively anomalous in Britain and does not enjoy any signifcant tolerance, and is therefore probably best rooted out on a case by case basis. Instead, the CSJ demand essentially the invention of a massive, all-embracing, multi-agency and (of course lavishly) government-funded anti-slavery regulatory industry. The list of its ‘recommendations’ runs to seven closely-typed pages!

  • Guest
  • telemachus

    interesting it is. download this report and discover that the words Islam, Islamist and Muslim do not appear once. Do you see what we have done? we make you feel guilty for this activity but we do not mention the perpetrators of it. We have made you guilty of every crime imagineable and you do not point it out. You submit to the agenda that we almost cannot believe is so successful. A few complaints here and there but otherwise you silently accept the condemnation of your own culture while the culture which is really perpatrating these crimes escapes all mention.

    • Vrai Telemachus

      Can you imagine the true tele subscribing to this tripe

      • Colonel Mustard

        Yeah, pretty much. It is like a ‘Spitting Image’ tele and hugely amusing.

        What happened to the avatar?

        • Vrai Telemachus

          If you think about it and interrogate the mechanism you will see that that is the point

          • Colonel Mustard

            There is no point to you. You are just an irritation here. A squawking. mischievous parrot of the left that would not be missed.

  • HookesLaw

    An absurd article that implies the British people and the British state is somehow complicit in organised slavery.

    And of course it elicits typically absurd responses led by the goosestepper in chief.

    • Wilhelm

      You’re quite correct Hooky, telemachus does tend to ‘goose step’ all over these forums, what can one do ? I’ve tried to scold him but to no avail, he’s like a disobedient 3 year old child running amok.

      • Daniel Maris

        That would be more convincing if you weren’t strutting in front of the mirror in your jackboots.

  • perdix

    “A once great nation of abolititionists… a shadow of its former self”. A completely hysterical comment by a publicity-seeking person. This is a serious problem but keep a sense of perspective.

    • Martin Adamson

      Far from it. I’d be willing to bet that in sheer numbers there are more slaves living in Britain today than there were in the 1760s.

      • Rhoda Klapp3

        Not if you count it the same way. Indentured servitude, the workhouse and so on. Actual slaves in a legal sense weren’t in existence in the 1760s either, on UK soil.

        • Martin Adamson

          Oh, there certainly were. There were a small number of classic slaves, mainly belonging to people who had lived in the Americas. Some Scottish coal-miners were slaves. The early anti-slavery campaigners concentrated on legal cases involving those two groups.

  • Reconstruct

    A list of alarming assertions, but no empirical backing is offered. How can we judge whether the alarm is justified, or mere babbling? The Spectator should do better.

  • alabenn

    So who is prepared to stand up and say the same today?
    Anyone who would not mind joining Huhne inside,
    You cannot fight something without stating in graphic terms who the people are that are carrying it out.
    You cannot fight it if you cannot state why they do it.
    You cannot fight it if you are not allowed to state what race and religion contribute to it.
    You cannot fight it if your position on it is being overrun by even more of the same people who are piling over the ramparts of the basic decency that was once a British trait.
    You cannot fight it if the government prostitutes itself to these people for votes.

  • Wilhelm

    All immigrants should be stripped of voting rights, so they will not determine the outcome of the election. In the ideal world that would happen, but then, we’re living in the Age of Treason, so it wont.

  • Wilhelm

    When you actually think about it, Africans are still being used as slaves. The Labour party imported them for no other reason than for them to put an X on a ballot paper next to Labour.

    They are willing to throw the country under a bus, so long as they have an inbuilt Labour majority to stay in power.

    • SlmonSaysNo

      ‘throw the country under a bus’, you mean what David Cameron is doing now?

      • Davidh

        White working class? I think you mean white unemployed and government employed class.

    • Vrai Telemachus

      Wilhem- you bang on about you favourite hobby horse the African
      This is not about Africans-It is about Eastern Europeans, Balkanites and Asians
      It is not about political parties-It is about criminality.
      Inasmuch there is any political dimension it is the Tory axing of frontline police and the Border Agency that lets this slavery thrive

      • huktra

        Colonel Wilhelm has a onetrack mind when there is a racial dimension.
        He is particularly fond of our African brethren.
        He denies the enrichment of this country by their culture and energy.

        • Wilhelm


          ‘Energy’ that’s a new one, shouldn’t the word be ‘vibrancy’ ?

          600,000 Whites have left London, I wonder why they did that, hmm. Is this ethnic cleansing of no concern to you ?

          • Vrai Telemachus

            I had not spotted your military connections but thinking about the typical views of the home counties retriever set I understand
            The whites have moved to the home counties but I have posted before on the dynamism of the London Culture and Industry.
            Just take a walk through any of the central London Boroughs and drink in the multicultural dare I repeat your word vibrancy

            • SlmonSaysNo

              It’s no good trying to talk sense to him, he was probably bullied by an african kid and has taken that right through to politics.

              • Wilhelm


                I think you’re self projecting your own personality on to me.

                This may come as a great shock to you, but some of us in this country quite liked the nation as it was, a monocultural Christian land, not the dystopian multicultural nightmare it is today.

                And the population wasn’t asked about it. Do you think that’s right ?

              • Vrai Telemachus

                I believe it is a worrying gut reaction
                The sort also espoused by Tommy Robinson

                • SlmonSaysNo

                  Comparing him to tommy robinson, be serious.

        • ruben

          Well not quite true, Wilhelm is the racist twin of the sexist Eddie. When I say twin, I mean conjoined.

          • Wilhelm


            The ‘waaycist’ insult doesn’t work anymore, son, it’s mind numbingly tiresome. Get a new script.

      • 2trueblue

        You are out of date, it all started and thrived under your beloved Liebores reign.

        • Vrai Telemachus

          The glorious regime that gave us prosperity from 1997 until Lehman blew in also revitalised the gene pool
          When considering Wilhelm we also need to reconsider the Gulag

  • LB

    Top of the list. The state treating people like slaves. Not only that running a stud book on its slaves breeding.

  • Colonel Mustard

    And how much of this “enrichment” has been delivered through the EU’s “freedom” of movement and the Labour party’s imaginative, party political immigration “policies”? Or is that a correlation that must be suppressed to spare the bien pensant sensitivities of the elite pavement café internationalists?

    • dalai guevara

      Yes, rent seeking is a deeply socialist rive gauche-type of affair. Milking immigrants in the workplace whilst simultaneously ripping off the same clientele in the sheds-with-beds bliss of increasingly privatised and overpriced Rigsby asset structures benefits the socialists most.

      • Colonel Mustard

        I see the irony in your post but why then is it that it is socialists who can be found most often denouncing any concerns about immigration (and getting pretty hot under the collar about them) on these pages and elsewhere? Effective immigration controls are surely not just about bigoted old reactionaries stopping the fun of pavement cafés or interesting discourse with “forward thinking” new arrivals but should also address the complete matrix of immigrant exploitation and risks, not just employment gang bosses.

        I suggest that it is because they generally approach the subject with prejudice themselves and are too often emotive rather than objective.

        But in any case your comment appears to have ignored one of the subsidiary objectives of Labour’s immigration posture which was to “rub the right’s nose in diversity”. This was a statement made by a left wing New Labour insider not the accusation of a right wing bigot!

        • dalai guevara

          Well, rubbing s/o nose in diversity, I just cannot follow that line to the end. Perhaps on the ground we simply find that some have no inherent fear of diversity, whilst others do. That does not surprise me – it’s simply a fact of life. I am not at all sure you could split those in favour/against into left and right.

          And then another simple thing is true: in any non-stagnant environment, things occasionally get out of hand/balance. Once that occurs and the inner peace of the incumbent societal belief structures appear under threat, it is up to that society to utilise the mechanisms that are obviously readily available and *regulate* (I know, a nasty word) the entire affair.

          • Colonel Mustard

            No inherent fear of diversity or an inherent fear of diversity are not relevant to the issue. The imperative was stated to be to “rub the right’s nose in diversity” which implies both a political preference and prejudice (a preconception that the left are pro-diversity whilst the right are against it) and an uncompromising, punitive or reconstructive action (rubbing their noses in it). Some New Labour seniors like Alan Johnson have attempted to distance themselves from that suggestion of motive and/or stated that they do not recognise it but the suspicion must stand given their record.

            The Left’s collective position, as with multi-culturalism, is to presume diversity to be of itself good but does it really have that attribute and has that been evidenced? There is diversity in crime as well as culture. And even so it collides with immigration issues as Bob Crow demonstrated on QT.

            Your second paragraph is all well and good but there are already examples of where an expected “regulatory” response or prevention has failed because of political correctness suppressing action. This must be considered to be largely as a result of the left’s posture as almost any attempt to express concerns about the threats to “societal belief structures” are denounced by accusations of racism, bigotry, etc. We see that here almost every time this subject is covered.

            • dalai guevara

              I am not certain I have been clear – I do not believe (like on many other topics) that this can be split into a simple left and right position.
              I fear that Bob Crow is defending his indigenous Union members, not all Union members as he ought to. Alan Johnson might have attempted to distance himself from your perceptions, Ken Clarke would certainly not oppose him. i could compile an endless list of conservative ‘mill owners’ welcoming *diversity*, whilst displaced unskilled socialists oppose it. What a surprise, the reverse is actually true! Or is it?

              I am sorry, but as much as you fear discussions quickly diverting to accusations of racism (this is silly, it all depends on how the points are made), I also cannot see what is gained by attempting to grade the Left ‘collectively’ as supporters of multi-cultural values. Before we do not unravel this conundrum, we are in grave danger of not talking the same language.

              • Colonel Mustard

                I do not “fear” discussions diverting. They simply do. q.v. “huktra” above who regularly conflates me with Wilhelm.

                The rest I tend to agree – sort of.

                • Vrai Telemachus

                  Comrade Huktra has done me a service
                  Perhaps you are also my stalking spoof?

            • Daniel Maris

              I have mentioned before that when I see a Buddhist Monk or a Buddhist Temple in London I feel quite welcoming of the diversity. I don’t feel under any threat. That’s even though the Monk’s robes and the Temple’s decoration are both very visible.

              Diversity is not the issue.

              Sadly, there are other religions and cultures which don’t provoke such benign feelings.

              I will never subscribe to the PC dogma that all religions of equal merit and equal import.

              • RightPaddock

                Daniel Maris – I take it your not a Rohingya from Burma or a Tamil from Sri Lanka then.

  • Wilhelm

    Strange how slavery and witchcraft was unheard of in Britain in the 1950s. This ‘cultural benefit’ has been imported. Africa and the Arab world is a different civilisation, they do things differently there. 8 year old marries 61 year old, guess where ?

    • LB

      That’ll be a member of the Rolling Stones?

    • dalai guevara

      Dear me, I despair. Foreign tribal societal belief structures are indoctrinating us that it is wrong to go clubbing, drink ourselves sensless and then have a shag in the lavatories. They have stopped us from smoking in the workplace and in our beloved pubs, closed down the latter which comparable only to the decline of gin houses in the late Victorian era, whilst making us consume halal pork product without our consent.

      Why can we not just reclaim the territories of Hong Kong and restart selling Indian opium to the Chinese, or just kick out yet another democratically elected leader of Persia to retain access to (our) oil supplies – at least that would bring our deficit under control. Problem solved.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Nice cherry picking. But on the opium and Hong Kong I suggest you read Julia Lovell’s ‘The Opium War’ – a balanced, historical account, largely free from post-colonial leftist prejudices.

        • dalai guevara

          I wish our local dealer would finally be recognised for what he is, a do-gooder in a free market economy. Russell Brand might get a knighthood as a result, so there is a downside.

    • Ruben

      They were unheard of because we lived in a less transparent culture in the 1950s.

  • Tom Tom

    “We are losing the battle. ” You say that about drugs too and urge decriminalisation, so let’s embrace Slavery and make it acceptable. A few storylines in Coronation Street and Eastenders, a few planted stories in the newspapers showing how we can compete with China now we too have slavery. Once Blair introduced Albanians into the UK as part of his Kosovo Crusade it was guaranteed that personal services from indentured workers would become endemic in the “sexual leisure industry”. We could reform Immigration Law to allow unlimited immigration for Slaves and that would serve the interests of British Business without the neeed to build new houses….simply create Barracks and Camps and have factories relocate to these Camps. It worked for IG Farben……the CBI would probably find it a creative solution

    • alabenn

      You need to be careful what you write, irony and commonsense are not a requirement for upholders of the law in this particular area of the EU.