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News from SupportActionNet

Tackling forced labour in the UK: new project with Thames Reach

Lemos&Crane and the homelessness charity Thames Reach are undertaking a project, supported by Trust for London, to understand how vulnerable communities are targeted for forced labour and develop educational and practical tools to address the problems. 

A 2011 police operation in Bedfordshire freed 15 men from ‘virtual slavery’. Subject to brutal intimidation and living in ‘filthy and cramped’ conditions, the men were working up to 16 hours a day mixing concrete and paving. The workers were a mix of EU migrants and UK nationals, many were previously homeless with histories of addiction and isolation – most concerning, the men reported being recruited outside soup kitchens, hostels and on the surrounding streets.    

The conditions endured by the victims of forced labour are often horrific: forced confinement, debt bondage, intimidation, dangerous and illegal working conditions. Still, despite the attention garnered by a few high-profile cases, forced labour remains a poorly understood problem in the UK. Studies suggest that thousands more individuals are likely working in situations of forced labour as pavers, domestic carers and agricultural workers, and police services are concerned that many victims are homeless or otherwise vulnerable people recruited at points of support services.

Over the next three years Lemos&Crane and Thames Reach will be working with a variety of groups, starting with research and information sharing amongst service users and providers, and progressing to the organizational and governmental level to guide policy toward lasting solutions.  Our goal is to effect a ‘system change’ for service users, practitioners and in policy, law enforcement and public awareness.

We will be conducting initial research and education initiatives in the near future. To get involved or to get more information visit the project webpage here. Or email Sarah. 

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