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Operating in the dark: The identification of forced labour in the UK

Shepherd, Rowena; Wilkinson, Mick


Rowena Shepherd

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Dr Mick Wilkinson
Lecturer in Modern Slavery, Criminology & Social Justice


Presented here are the findings of a research study undertaken between 2015 and 2018 that focused on existing arrangements and mechanisms for front-line identification of the victims of forced labour in the UK. The study drew upon interviews with service professionals in en-forcement and policing organisations together with workers in non-governmental victim sup-port agencies. These findings reveal significant failings in current approaches, that suggest processes for the identification of victims remain, at best, uneven from service to service, lo-cation to location, at worst wholly inadequate. The study also exposed widespread stake-holder concerns around UK government regulatory guidance and immigration policies, suggesting that these were hindering rather than assisting them in the process of identification. Further, that the deregulated employment environment was one in which forced labour practices could both thrive and remain well-hidden amongst wider employer exploitation and abuse.


Shepherd, R., & Wilkinson, M. (in press). Operating in the dark: The identification of forced labour in the UK. Critical social policy : CSP,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 30, 2020
Online Publication Date May 22, 2020
Deposit Date Jul 2, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jul 2, 2020
Journal Critical Social Policy
Print ISSN 0261-0183
Electronic ISSN 1461-703X
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Deregulation; Forced labour; Hostile environment; Identification
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Key words
Forced labour, identification, deregulation, hostile environment


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