Last week London took to the polling stations to elect its new Mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan. In his victory speech, Khan spoke of his ambition to give every single Londoner ‘the opportunities not just to survive, but to thrive’. While voters look to Khan to deliver on his promises to fight for fairer pay and affordable housing and transport, London’s charitable sector will also be seeking to engage with the new Mayor to ensure a robust policy framework that can provide the services needed for everyone living and working in the capital.
The question remains as to whether the newly elected Mayor will deliver what is needed to protect the most vulnerable workers in our city. Despite his commitment to ‘addressing all forms of exploitation and abuse across the capital’, the previous Mayor’s only strategy related to trafficking focused solely on women and girls in sexual exploitation, and failed to address other forms of exploitation of both women and men. Shadow City, a report published during the outgoing Mayor’s term, revealed the shocking extent of trafficking for labour exploitation in London and urged the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime to review their strategy which it called ‘outdated, discriminatory, [and] dangerous for male victims’.
FLEX’s work with migrant organisations and support providers in London has confirmed Shadow City’s claims: that labour abuses and more severe exploitation are endemic across the capital, particularly in certain sectors such as cleaning, construction, catering, hospitality and domestic work, and among migrant communities.
FLEX has been engaging with the Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) and the Metropolitan Police to raise awareness of the issue of trafficking for labour exploitation in London and improve identification of those who have been exploited. As part of this work, FLEX produced a briefing on factors affecting individuals’ vulnerability to trafficking for labour exploitation, to inform the work of MOPAC on protecting people who are vulnerable to crime. These factors include poverty, illness or disability, language barriers, and lack of knowledge of and access to labour rights.
FLEX hopes to continue to work closely with the new Mayor’s office to help City Hall develop a pro-active, joined-up response to trafficking that includes all forms of exploitation.