It's the kind of thing you wouldn't expect to find within the suburban neighborhoods of Britain. But the slave trade is alive and well in these areas, and its presence is insidious and widespread. A searing undercover investigation mounted by Al Jazeera, Britain's Modern Slave Trade shines a light on an underground system of crime and human rights abuses that continues to thrive while hidden in plain sight.
These violations are occurring in the most unassuming of environments. Such is the case with a high-profile car wash business located in the county of Kent. There, workers toil for just over $4 an hour, suffer through intolerably long hours and dismal working conditions, and endure frequent onslaughts of verbal and physical abuse. A close associate of the area's Volvo and Kia dealerships, the car wash is rumored to have fulfilled its staffing requirements by indulging in the crime of human trafficking. Similar forced labor practices are occurring across a number of trades in the region from nail salons to the growing cannabis farming industry.
The Modern Slavery Act, enacted by Parliament in March of 2015, prohibits such activities, and requires companies to remain cognizant of these practices and vigilant in abolishing them from their own operations. In spite of this, the filmmakers found that up to 85% of the country's most prominent companies do not sufficiently adhere to these regulations.
Sex slavery dominates the region as well. While there is no means of determining precisely how many young women are currently being held captive and exploited against their will, the number is thought to reach into the thousands. Some of these victims are citizens of the UK while others are smuggled in from various regions of the world. The film shows us how police undertake efforts to thwart these crimes of dehumanization, and the growing number of shelters that hope to offer additional support to these young victims.
Britain's Modern Slave Trade offers raw interviews with several victims of the slave trade, and provides us with an inside look at how these criminal enterprises continue to flourish. It's a deeply troubling crisis, and one that law enforcement officials are ill-prepared and struggling to contain.