Underground Lives – Homelessness and Modern Slavery in London

Modern slavery is a horrific crime that turns a profit from the brutal exploitation of vulnerable people. In 2018, nearly 7,000 men, women and children were identified by First Responder organisations suspected to have been sold for sex, forced labour, forced to commit crimes or held as slaves in people’s homes. Tens of thousands more people are believed to remain trapped in the UK. Victims of modern slavery have suffered unimaginable trauma at the hands of their exploiters. Psychological manipulation, starvation, degradation, violence, abuse and rape are just some of the control mechanisms that are regularly used to force people into compliance to profit a trafficker.
With this report, we aim to give a voice to people who have survived the dual experience of escaping exploitation and sleeping rough. They told us of the barriers they faced to seeking help, the fear and mistrust, the loneliness and the shame. They also told us what they feel should happen to enable people under these circumstances to access the support they truly need.
This report attempts to estimate the scale of rough sleeping and modern slavery in London with the limited data available. The findings are sobering. The most conservative estimates find that nearly one in ten people sleeping rough every year on the streets of London have been exploited in modern slavery. But this report also highlights the huge opportunity to protect and support these vulnerable men and women on their journey off the streets and onto the road to recovery.

Date Published: 15th October 2019
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