20 years ago, on the beach of Morecambe Bay, 23 migrant workers illegally smuggled into the U.K. drowned while picking cockles on the beach. A subsequent investigation revealed that criminal gangmasters had forced the migrants to work in these highly dangerous conditions leading to a raft of new laws aimed at protecting workers from forced labor and modern slavery. But according to The Conversation, campaigners claim the situation in the U.K. for exploited workers has gotten even worse.
Modern slavery from chickens to flowers
Modern slavery affects an estimated 130,000 people in the U.K. today and 50 million globally. The Chinese migrant workers being forced to collect cockles that night were working without help and had not been given basic information about the local tides. While this avoidable disaster served as a wake-up call about the extent and dangers of modern slavery, the issue is far from solved. Researchers in the U.K. have found modern slavery infesting multiple sectors and supply chains across the U.K.
“A U.K. flower distributor told us that many of their U.K. growers pose more risk in terms of modern slavery than their Colombian flower farms do.”
And as demonstrated by the Morecambe Bay tragedy, modern slavery is not just a business risk. For vulnerable workers living under modern slavery who are often untrained and ill-equipped, it can mean risking their lives.