In many ways, modern slavery is something of an invisible crime. The victims are often hiding in plain sight and are too afraid, or lack the means to report what is happening to. The perpetrators too can go largely undetected as they can initially come across as legitimate business owners.

This makes detecting incidents of slavery and forced labour very difficult but there are other ways this practice can be stopped. Banks can play a leading role in the fight against slavery in a number of different ways.

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery can be defined as any form of servitude or forced labour. In many cases, it usually involves a form of human trafficking where people are tricked into travelling the to the UK with the promise of work, only to be exploited. These people are usually forced to live in cramped, overcrowded accommodation and work for very low wages, none of which they actually seem themselves. Due to the fact that many of threatened with violence and have limited English, they find it almost impossible to escape their situation and report what is happening.

What Role can Banks Play in Combating Modern Slavery?

There are a number of ways in which banks can help blow the whistle on compulsory labour practices.

Be Rigorous in who they Offer their Banking Services to

Banks need to be thorough in looking into people who are seeking to access their products, particularly where lending is involved. Legitimate business owners will expect a certain level of scrutiny when they are taking out business loans.

It is up to banks to carry out the necessary risk assessment when deciding which business customers to lend to and to ensure that they money is not going to fund human trafficking and slavery practices.

This means scrutinising business ventures which people are seeking capital investment in, both in the UK and in other countries.

They should also be vigilant when it comes to funds entering into the banking system and many criminals will seek to legitimise their practices by funnelling money through bank accounts.

Offer Banking Products to Survivors of Modern Slavery

For banks, the focus doesn’t just have to be those behind the practice of forced labour, they can also help with the victims. Many of them will be migrant workers, and some may not have the requisite paperwork or identification documents with which to set up a bank account of their own.

Banks can help by giving them access to so-called survivor accounts if and when they have been freed from the shackles of servitude.

Educate their Staff

By training and educating their staff about modern slavery practices, banks can be pro-active in combating the practice. An educated staff is vital in spotting questionable practices and payments and bringing them to the attention of the relevant people.

Most bank staff will receive some form of fraud and criminal prevention training and it is here where issues around modern slavery should be raised.