Our image is taken from this Guardian piece. That famed one with the claim that there are up to 100,000 Vietnamese women smuggled into the country to work in nail bars - nail bars where they are forced into prostitution, a particularly vile form of modern slavery. That same Guardian piece which was debunked in its own comments section as being an entire phantasm.
A couple of years later there was a series of directed raids upon such nail bars. No one's surprised there were immigration offences found but of that modern slavery - and of that prostitution - not a scrap, jot nor tittle was.
At which point we get this in The Times, about the Anti-Slavery Commissioner:
Slowly, almost disbelievingly, Britain is being forced to confront the disturbing reality of modern slavery on our high streets, in homes and in criminal sectors of the economy.
We would not say that there is no slavery out there. There have indeed been prosecutions for it which have succeeded. Any slavery is too much of course. However:
That car wash in the old petrol station is good, quick and cheap, the deal in the nail bar is just too tempting and the Turkish barber offers exceptional value.
In the black economy, the cannabis factories hidden in houses and premises all over the country routinely employ exploited labour — often young Vietnamese men living in poor conditions. Young women and girls who came to Britain from all over the world after being promised a better life find themselves in brothels and forced to have sex with many men every day.
Kevin Hyland, the anti-slavery commissioner, says there is much more to be done. He wants campaigns, like those that raised awareness of domestic violence as a crime, and regulation of sectors such as nail bars. And he wants arrests. “I want to see the police doing what they are there for, pursuing the criminals behind modern slavery and putting them behind bars,” he said.
We've actually investigated those nail bars and found that while there are indeed immigration offences there's not much else there. Equally, we've investigated those sex slavery allegations and that's led to the most glorious Guardian piece ever.
The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Saturday 14 November 2009
In the report below about sex trafficking we referred to the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre as "the police Human Trafficking Centre". The UKHTC describes itself as "a multi-agency centre" and says that it is "police led". Its partners include two non-governmental organisations, HM Revenue & Customs, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and the UK Border Agency. We referred to Grahame Maxwell as the head of the UKHTC; his title is programme director.
The UK's biggest ever investigation of sex trafficking failed to find a single person who had forced anybody into prostitution in spite of hundreds of raids on sex workers in a six-month campaign by government departments, specialist agencies and every police force in the country.
As far as being things that we can actually track and identify are concerned nail bar slavery, trafficking into sex slavery, are not things which occur in modern Britain. And we really have tried too, all 55 police forces rousted their entire patches in that Operation Pentameter. 500 odd arrests were made, most of which didn't lead to charges let alone trial and absolutely none of the arrests, charges or trials under Pentameter were for the actual crime of trafficking into sex slavery.
At which point we should note again that Kevin Hyland is the Anti-Slavery Commissioner. About the likes of whom Upton Sinclair had something to say:
It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.
Isn't it just amazing how far politics and reality can diverge? And on our money too.