Slavery Survives into 21st Century Wales; It Is More Than 200 Years since William Wilberforce's Campaign Saw the Abolition of Slavery in 1807 but This Week Police Rescued 24 Modern-Day Captives from a Travellers' Site in Leighton Buzzard. Here Darren Devine Explores How the Slave Trade Has Survived in Wales through Human Trafficking and Exploitation

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Byline: Darren Devine

THE chains and leg irons may have gone, but the bonds binding slave to master are as formidable now as when human cargo was transported in its hundreds below deck in the transatlantic slave ships.

When police quizzed five people at a travellers' camp in Leighton Buzzard about 24 alleged slaves on Monday it raised the spectre of a global menace many thought was consigned to the history books.

Slavery, more than two centuries after the last ship, Eliza, left Liverpool, bound for Africa, survives.

Anti-Slavery International (ASI) say both here, and on a global scale, the arrests made by police represent the tip of the iceberg.

In Britain the group estimates there are 5,000 slaves, while across the world the United Nations believes the figure to be around 12.3m.

ASI spokesman Paul Donohoe said people from places like Africa and the Far East can find themselves enslaved because employers threaten to report them if they don't have the right to work in the UK.

He said: "Typically the people who find themselves in forced labour in the UK are foreigners, who often because of their immigration status are more vulnerable to being exploited.

"Weirdly one of the ways you can control someone is to say, 'If you don't do what I say, I'll go to the police'.

"And rather than feel you'd be rescued by the police there's a threat of denunciation."

Of the British slaves, around 4,000 (80%) are estimated to be women trafficked into forced prostitution.

Women compelled to service up to 30 clients per day in brothels represents the 21st century face of slavery in the UK.

In the case of enforced prostitution, threats and violence are the chains binding slave to master.

Amnesty International's programme director for Wales Cathy Owens said women brought here for the sex industry end up not only in cities like Cardiff and Swansea, but all over the country.

Experts suggest sex slaves are raped, tortured, humiliated, and drugged during transportation and efforts to break their spirits continue once they are sold to pimps and brothel owners.

The exploitation can occur in brothels, sex clubs, massage parlours, hotels and on street corners and continues for years, leading to severe physical, emotional, and psychological harm.

Last year, Thomas Carroll and wife Shamiela Clark were jailed for three-and-half years for running a prostitution ring in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland from their base in Pembrokeshire.

Most of the young women and girls, one aged just 15, came from South America and Nigeria, with many not knowing they would have to work as prostitutes to pay off the huge debts they were told they owed their traffickers. …