Shining a light on labour exploitation in the UK

The Santa Marta Group teamed up with South American communities and the Archdiocese of Southwark to shine a light on modern slavery. This event was particularly focused on forced labour, as a significant proportion of the South American community living in London are employed in the service industries, one of the sectors where labour exploitation is most prevalent.

Bishop Patrick Lynch, lead Bishop on anti-human trafficking work for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, opened the event, welcoming the South American community in Spanish and outlining the purpose of the event.

Maria Gonzalez-Merello, a barrister who works on employment and immigration law and runs a pro bono clinic, shared her experience of working with people who had experienced wage theft and labour exploitation.

DS Helene Miller from the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking team spoke on what constitutes modern slavery, the different forms of modern slavery and how to identify them.

Lys Ford from the Gangmasters’ Labour Abuse Authority shared her expertise of labour exploitation, highlighting that it can happen in any industry. The presentation made people aware of their rights and what action they could take if their rights were not being upheld.

The role that the Church plays in combatting modern slavery was described by Mick Duthie, Deputy Director of the Santa Marta Group. Mick emphasised that the Church has a unique reach into different communities, including the South American community, and is working globally to both support survivors of modern slavery and prevent people becoming victims.

The evening encouraged the wider community to be the ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground, help people to identify the signs of modern slavery and encourage individuals to alert the police or modern slavery helpline if they have any concerns.

Archbishop Peter Smith closed the event by thanking all the speakers and encouraging attendees to go out and raise awareness of modern slavery within their communities.

During the evening the audience were shown powerful video testimonies of people from South American communities who had experienced labour exploitation. This brought home the realities of exploitation and showed the need for close collaboration between the community and law enforcement to ensure those who are vulnerable can be protected.

The event exemplified the purpose of the Santa Marta Group, bringing together the Church, law enforcement and the community to raise awareness of modern slavery and work together to combat it.

Check out the Spanish awareness raising cards here.

This is part of the wider work that the Santa Marta Group are doing to raise awareness of modern slavery within different ethnic communities.