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NCA’s ‘Invisible People’ exhibition launches

A touring photographic exhibition which portrays the signs of slavery and exploitation has been launched in London.

Entitled ‘Invisible People’, the exhibition will tour the country as part of the National Crime Agency’s campaign to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Slavery was abolished in the UK in 1807 yet more than 200 years on it still exists. Modern slavery is a crime which seeks out the most vulnerable men, women and children and abuses them for criminal profit.

Exploitation is in our communities. Sometimes it is right before our eyes and yet we don’t really see it.

The NCA has teamed up with photographers including multiple award winner Rory Carnegie and human rights charity the Helen Bamber Foundation to recreate the lives of Invisible People and expose the reality of modern slavery.

The exhibition comprises a series of large, freestanding cubes displaying images capturing snapshots of life in modern slavery - in agriculture, construction, maritime, cannabis farming and food processing, child trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution.

Each image comes with written commentary describing what the viewer is seeing, and information about signs which may indicate someone is a victim.

The free exhibition is on view at London’s Kia Oval on Friday 5 January. It will then start a nationwide tour through January, February and March, visiting public spaces in cities around the UK, including Manchester, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast.

Photographer Rory Carnegie said:

“Several years ago I  worked on an extended project with young refugees, all without parents, helping them to take photographs and to visualise their feelings.

“When I was approached for this exhibition, it seemed like a natural extension of that work.

“What I found initially so complicated was how to visually define and illustrate certain aspects of Modern Slavery. For example, when one sees a picture of a young man or woman picking fruit or working in the fields, they will appear to the viewer exactly that, and not necessarily a victim of modern slavery.

“That image in itself does not explain the disgusting living conditions, the absence of pay and the other iniquitous and evil aspects of modern slavery. These victims might not be living in chains, but they are living amongst us.” 

Will Kerr, Director of Vulnerabilities for the NCA said:

“This exhibition aims to show that, while victims are sometimes hidden away, they are often working in plain sight.

“Look out for people who are often withdrawn, scared or unwilling to interact. They may be showing signs of mistreatment and ill health or living in over-crowded, cramped and dirty accommodation.

“Trust your instincts, and when you think something doesn’t look right speak out.”

Anyone with suspicions should call their local police on 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, national policing lead for modern slavery, said:

“The inhumanity demonstrated by offenders of this crime is far greater than I have seen in my entire career tackling organised crime and terrorism. The human cost in stolen lives and stolen futures is high. 

“Modern slavery is an incredibly complex crime to unravel and it is vital that we increase the eyes and ears capable of recognising the signs of symptoms.  This visual impact of this exhibition will provide a powerful illustration of modern slavery, which I am sure will assist in raising awareness of this abhorrent crime and lead to increased reporting.”

Rachel Witkin, Head of Counter-Trafficking for the Helen Bamber Foundation said:

“At the Helen Bamber Foundation we assist, support and protect hundreds of ‘invisible people’ who have suffered modern slavery to rebuild their lives and sustain recovery.   

“It is easy to overlook this growing crime.  We need to ask ourselves, is the person who is giving us a manicure, serving a meal or washing our car being abused?  Invisible People compels us to confront the issue of modern slavery in our society, and our own responsibility to act. 

“We find that when victims are given appropriate care they can find the courage to speak out against their traffickers.”

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