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World Update: Al Jazeera reveals the true scale of modern slavery in suburban Britain

Britain’s Modern Slave Trade, a new documentary from Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit, premiered yesterday on Al Jazeera. Following six months of undercover filming, Al Jazeera can reveal the true scale of modern slavery in Britain, and the possible links with big businesses.


During the investigation the reporters confront a car wash owner accused of slavery; they go inside an active cannabis farm; travel to Romania to meet a sex trafficker; meet a woman who has worked as a sex slave, been rescued and then re-trafficked into sex slavery in the UK; and talk to Vietnamese people smugglers as well as those they end up smuggling.

The report comes as Kevin Hyland, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, warns big business that they may unwittingly be using slaves in their supply chain.  This coincides with new laws coming into force this month (April) obliging firms to publish slavery statements.

 Yet the car wash workers featured in the report reveal their shocking working and living conditions:  12-hour days; verbal and physical abuse from their British boss; huge fines and debt bondage imposed for minor damage; and squalid accommodation in temporary cabins on the car wash site.

Undercover filming inside an active cannabis farm reveals the details of a lone Vietnamese gardener’s job: how the electricity is stolen, and how he never goes out and lives in fear.   A cannabis slave trafficked from Vietnam to England also talks about how he was beaten, kept in chains and almost starved.

The team travels to Romania and are offered sex slaves for 500 euros each.  In London they meet a sex trafficker who brings young women from Romania and forces them into prostitution. He describes the techniques he uses to control their lives and their minds.  They also meet an eastern European sex slave trafficked, rescued and re-trafficked into sex slavery in the UK.

Finally, at a nail bar in London, a Vietnamese woman describes how she has just been smuggled into the UK in a lorry. Her brother explains the route she used to get to the UK.   In Vietnam, people-smugglers reveal how they take people 6,000 miles to the UK. They explain the routes, the cost and how they use fake ID.

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