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Modern slavery arrest in Epsom as police highlight issue

At least one man was arrested in relation to modern slavery in Epsom this week during a police operation targeting the heinous practice in the town.

Officers with Surrey Police said they had worked with Home Office representatives in Epsom from Monday (April 26) in a bid to uncover and disrupt labour exploitation practices i.e. modern slavery in the area.

A spokesperson for the county police force said they focused on businesses highlighted to be at particular risk of modern slavery such as car washes and nail bars.

Two people were identified by the taskforce as potential victims of modern slavery, “having been trafficked into the UK, and exploited at various locations,” police said.

“One person has been arrested on suspicion of offences relating to labour exploitation.

“The victims have been safeguarded from further harm,” they added.

Police said they had also “dealt” with four people for immigration offences, though did not specify whether those people were victims or perpetrators of labour exploitation.

This is not the first time that arrests have been made in Epsom in connection to modern slavery.

The Surrey Comet reported in November 2019 the arrest of three women linked with modern slavery offences in the town in what was then described by the authorities as a “growing problem” in Surrey.

The newspaper also spoke with modern slavery expert Jakub Sobik from Anti-Slavery International.

He said that the scale of modern slavery in the UK was “in the tens of thousands”, referencing the National Crime Agency.

“In 2013 the UK government estimated there were around 13,000 people are in modern slavery at any time.

“But that was over five years ago and there is a wide understanding that the numbers are much higher,” Sobik said.

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It’s closer than you think

LGBT victims of modern slavery can be any age, nationality and ethnicity. They are often tricked or threatened into work and may feel unable to leave or report the crime through fear or intimidation. They may not recognise themselves as a victim.

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Surrey Police how to notice the signs

Modern slavery could be happening in your community so it’s important you know the signs that could indicate someone is a victim of this crime.

The signs aren’t always obvious but there are some that you may notice: 

  • do they look scruffy, malnourished or injured?
  • are they acting anxious, afraid or unable to make eye contact?
  • are they doing long hours, wearing unsuitable clothing or have the wrong equipment for the job?
  • is where they are living overcrowded, poorly maintained or are the curtains always closed?
  • do they behave like they’re being instructed by someone else, picked up/dropped off at the same time and place every day or don’t have access to money or identification?
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Berkshire students teach about human trafficking

Students at LVS Ascot in Berkshire, UK, have been holding all kinds of events to raise awareness of modern-day slavery.

Now is the time to reach out to all Surrey Schools to do the same and create a planned program in raising awareness to our youth.

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TIK TOK : influencer found guilty of Human Trafficking

Egyptian TikTok influencer Haneen Hossam will appeal a 10-year prison sentence handed down by a Cairo court that found her guilty of human trafficking, her lawyer said on Monday.

In the latest twist in a nearly year-long saga, the court also fined the 20-year-old Cairo University student 200,000 Egyptian pounds ($13,000) on Sunday for encouraging women to share footage on the video-sharing app in exchange for money.

“We will demand restoration of the case proceedings because there are contradictions between the verdict and the merits on which the court’s decision is based,” said lawyer Hani Sameh.

“We hope that she can get a reduced jail sentence or an acquittal,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Several women have been accused of “inciting debauchery” for challenging Egypt’s conservative social values, and the battle has moved online as the use of social media by young Egyptians surges.

Hossam, who has about 900,000 followers on TikTok, was among five Egyptian social media influencers who were sentenced to two years in jail in July 2020 for promoting immorality by encouraging women to make money through social media followings.

She was arrested after posting a video on Instagram explaining how women could earn up to US$3,000 by broadcasting videos using the video creation platform Likee, which authorities interpreted as promoting women selling sex online.

The other four members of the group were Mawaddah Al-Adham, who was found guilty of sharing “indecent” photos and videos with her 1 million Instagram followers, and three men who were found guilty of helping the two women.

An appeal court overturned the ruling in January, but introduced new charges of human trafficking. The five accused were released in February, after spending eight months in jail.

On Sunday, all five were found guilty of human trafficking and fined 200,000 pounds each.

Hossam was given the longest prison sentence – 10 years – with Al-Adham and the three men only ordered to serve six years.

Sameh said Hossam received the toughest sentencing because she had not appeared in court, even though “it was her legal right not to show up”.

The decision has outraged rights defenders.

“The ruling is harsh and exaggerated,” said Reda Eldanbouki, executive director of the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness.

“Such a verdict restricts the right to freedom of opinion and expression and aims to control women’s bodies and impose guardianship over their actions,” he said.

Eldanbouki said the verdict restricts women with vague labels like “protecting family values”.

The state-run National Council for Women was not available for comment.

Entessar el-Saeed, another women’s rights activist and head of the Cairo Foundation for Development and Law, said authorities were unfairly singling out women – not men – in their efforts to “safeguard” family values.

“We can see other videos and posts on social media by men justifying marital rape but with no reaction against them. Doesn’t that violate family values?” El-Saeed asked.

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Vulnerable Groups

The most vulnerable groups, even in wealthy nations, are those suffering the most during the Pandemic Recession. Evidence suggests low earners have been hit the hardest by spiking unemployment. As unemployment rates rise, increasing numbers are likely to be trafficked from the poorest communities to those parts of the world recovering faster.

You would not expect to see Surrey listed, but its there

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Why Surrey for Human Trafficking?

Surrey is in the top third of all police force areas in terms of the number of modern slavery victims coming forward. Location ‘hotspots’ within Surrey identify –

Walton on Thames
Chertsey,
Guildford
Woking

– as prevalent trafficking areas. Epsom, Leatherhead and Reigate are also areas of concern.

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Homeless LGBT

24% of people at risk of homelessness in the UK identify as LGBTQ, out of which 77% claim that this was a direct result of familial rejection (AKT, 2019). There are many challenges that come with being homeless. Lack of economic resources, food and shelter can increase exposure to traffickers. Once homeless the risk of “grooming, psychological manipulation, physical abuse, and exploitation” can increase (Nationalhomeless.org, 2009).

Experiencing homophobia and discrimination can amplify the effects of this. Homeless LGBTQ youth specifically can suffer more from mental health issues and drug abuse.

Supplying drugs is a common method traffickers can use to entice their victims and force them into work via debt repayment (Kelly, 2018). A lack of support can increase the appeal of illicit activity for financial gain, under these circumstances homeless LGBTQ can be easily exploited.