Invisible People – recognising modern slavery

From Devon & Cornwall Police:

Would you recognise modern slavery if you saw it? Do you know how to spot the signs? A touring photographic exhibition which portrays the signs of slavery and exploitation is coming to Plymouth this weekend (10-11 February) so look out for it if you are there.

The ‘Invisible People’ exhibition is part of the National Crime Agency’s campaign to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Slavery was abolished in the UK in 1807 yet more than 200 years on it still exists. Modern slavery is a crime which seeks out the most vulnerable men, women and children and abuses them for criminal profit.

Exploitation is in our communities. Sometimes it is right before our eyes and yet we don’t really see it.

The NCA has teamed up with photographers including multi-award winner Rory Carnegie and human rights charity the Helen Bamber Foundation to recreate the lives of ‘invisible people’ and expose the reality of modern slavery.

The exhibition comprises a series of large, freestanding cubes displaying images capturing snapshots of life in modern slavery – in agriculture, construction, maritime, cannabis farming and food processing, child trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.

Each image comes with written commentary describing what the viewer is seeing, and information about signs which may indicate someone is a victim.   The free exhibition is on view at the Piazza in Plymouth this weekend (10-11 February).

Photographer Rory Carnegie said: “What I found initially so complicated was how to visually define and illustrate certain aspects of modern slavery. For example, when one sees a picture of a young man or woman picking fruit or working in the fields, they will appear to the viewer exactly that, and not necessarily a victim of modern slavery.

“That image in itself does not explain the disgusting living conditions, the absence of pay and the other iniquitous and evil aspects of modern slavery. These victims might not be living in chains, but they are living amongst us.”

Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer who is also the national policing lead for modern slavery, said: “The inhumanity demonstrated by offenders of this crime is far greater than I have seen in my entire career tackling organised crime and terrorism. The human cost in stolen lives and stolen futures is high.

“Modern slavery is an incredibly complex crime to unravel and it is vital that we increase the eyes and ears capable of recognising the signs of symptoms.This visual impact of this exhibition will provide a powerful illustration of modern slavery, which I am sure will assist in raising awareness of this abhorrent crime and lead to increased reporting.”

Alison Hernandez, who as Devon and Cornwall police and crime commissioner oversees the Government’s £8.5m investment in the national Modern Slavery unit based at Exmouth, said: “Given recent events in Cornwall this gives the general public a fantastic opportunity to get a sense of the effect these medieval practices have on vulnerable communities.

“There is more we can do to help our communities understand modern slavery and how it affects all of us and this fine exhibition is a good place for people to start their learning.”

Anyone who suspects modern slavery is encouraged to report it to their local police force on 101 or to the national Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.

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