Slaves on our Streets: The time has come to end this shameful abuse

As The Independent begins an investigation into what is a modern national atrocity, Evgeny Lebedev says that the misery must – and can – be stopped

Evgeny Lebedev
Thursday 14 September 2017 17:13 BST
Police say tens of thousands of people are kept in sub-human conditions across the country
Police say tens of thousands of people are kept in sub-human conditions across the country (Rex)

All over our cities, hidden in the dark corners behind the gleaming facades, are slaves.

We cannot count them. But the police believe that tens of thousands of men, women and even children are being kept captive in Britain in sub-human conditions. They are forced to work impossible hours for little or no reward in brothels, car washes, restaurants, cannabis farms and other businesses run by criminal gangs, and even the houses of the wealthy.

Transported here from all over the world, far from their homelands and often unable to speak a word of English, they fear the authorities barely less than the gangsters. We call this “modern slavery”, though there is nothing modern about it. It is barely even Dickensian. It is a persistent form of evil that echoes down the centuries to the Britain of today in which we take such pride.

That pride and our humanity dictate we do all in our power to find and free them. This is why, for our autumn special investigation, The Independent and the London Evening Standard will expose modern slavery in all its gruesome detail. A series of articles will reveal where and how it occurs. We will talk to its victims, and to the men and women fighting it through law enforcement, rehabilitation work and policy reform.

We will show you how to spot the signs, and what you can do to combat it. From both government and business, we will demand specific action to protect the victims and bring their abusers to justice.

The Independent and the Evening Standard have a long history of campaigning journalism, for which the credit belongs to you, our readers. Together we can – and will – help to ensure that this scourge is eradicated from a 21st century city in which it has no place.

Evgeny Lebedev is proprietor of The Independent

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