The word `exploitation` means taking advantage of someone or treating them unfairly, to gain an advantage for yourselves.There are many examples, but there is a big difference between actions that are criminal, opposed to those that are a civil matter.
For example, employing someone and not paying them the minimum wage, which is a legal requirement placed on all employers, could be criminal, however, most cases will be civil. For this to be a criminal act, there would need to be other factors, such as abuse, keeping people against their will and in extremely poor living conditions, which would be considered modern day slavery, which is a relatively new law in the UK.
Exploitation is sadly one of the oldest actions that someone takes against another. There are many vulnerable people and there are always those who will seek to take advantage over them for their own gain. For many of these vulnerable people, there is little way out because they either feel tied to their abuser in some way, or they are under threat to remain in he abusive life they have been taken into.
There are specific laws that deal with the range of offences that cover exploitation, including the Modern Day Slavery Act 2015, assault, false imprisonment, sexual offences , drugs and child abuse, to name some.
Rather than explain the various laws and give examples of each, this article is intended to inform you how widespread this form of abuse is in the UK and how we all can do our bit to be aware of vulnerable people living in our community and do our duty to report it.
I can remember a time not too long ago when `exploitation` was not a word heard within a police station. It is one of the most frequently used words now and this is because as a nation, we have woken up to what has been going on all around us and we are now dealing with it.
To explain how things have changed, the example of foreign workers living above a restaurant premises and working as cooks and kitchen staff would have been considered solely as an immigration matter – either people being in the country illegally or overstaying their visa period.
Cases like these would have been a single agency approach, where UK Border Force and control staff would visit and return anyone illegally in the country to their home country.
A similar view was taken in the case of someone looking after a house which was being used to grow cannabis plants. In most cases, there would be only one person staying at the property, who was in most cases an illegal immigrant, and the police would arrest them, but seldom where they convicted of any criminal offence if they were someone who was in the UK illegally and the police would hand them over to UK Border Force and control and dismantle the cannabis growing operation.
These examples will now attract a very different approach where the immigration status of someone will be the secondary consideration; the first consideration will be exploitation – are they being abused or kept against their will and are thee criminal offences against them
There are two main danger when considering some of the example of exploitation: the first is being stereotypical – not all car washes are fronts for drug offences or money laundering. The second is thinking the question “why don`t they just leave and go to the authorities for help”
You may think this question has a simple answer but is not a simple situation for someone to simply leave.
Many are under duress or threat. They also have no-where to go, because in the case of foreigners, some have left countries where they are unable to easily return to, so their situation in the UK, although far from ideal or right, is the lesser of the two evils for them.
Most exploited people have a long story they could tell before they are found. This will range from false promises being made by people traffickers who promise them work and good living conditions in the UK and the start of a new life, to grooming where they are treated well and trust the person who then abuses them.
Once the exploitation begins, it is not easy to get out. This is because of the ties that they have with their abuser who hey become dependant upon for accommodation and money (although a very small amount) or the ability to stay away from an even worse situation that they had come from.
Threat is another big part of exploitation and one example of this could be drug abuse or sexual abuse, where people are groomed to do something and are either given drugs or gifts for free, but when they are then asked to do things against their will, then if they want to leave, the threat is made to harm them, or a family member if they try to, or tell anyone.
Another problem faced is how an abused person will feel their life is normal in some way. This is because they have never experienced a normal life and they don`t always see that situation they are in is abusive or simply not right.
All these factors mean that the world pf exploitation is very much hidden, and it is important for us all to be aware of the possibility of people living among us who are abused.
There is no need for anyone to dig into anything themselves, it is just old-fashioned instinct that we all need – if it doesn`t seem right, report it. If you are wrong, then at least you have created the opportunity to have something investigated.
If you feel there are exploited people living in your community, either report it via 101 or 999 if urgent, or if you don`t wish to leave your name, report it via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.