Coronation Street is to explore the issue of modern slavery, human trafficking and work exploitation, it was revealed today.
The show's researchers have been working closely with The Salvation Army, which is contracted by the government to provide specialist support for adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales since 2011, and since that time over 8000 survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking have come in to its care.
The popular ITV series sees Seb Franklin find himself dragged into the murky world of modern slavery when he falls for nail bar worker Alina. Seb is initially unaware that Alina is living in squalid conditions, having been brought over to the UK a part of an Eastern European human trafficking ring. When he realises what is going on he sets about trying to expose the slave gangmasters, putting his own life and that of others on the street at risk.
In the storyline that starts in April, Eileen Grimshaw is also caught up in the drama as viewers will see that her new Polish builder boyfriend Jan is involved in some way.
The Salvation Army works to raise awareness of modern slavery, encouraging the public to be on the lookout for possible victims who might be trapped and being exploited, but are hidden in plain sight. The church and charity hopes that this storyline will encourage viewers to think about the ethics behind some of the services we all take for granted.
Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery at The Salvation Army said: “Modern slavery is happening all around us, hidden in plain sight. The key to combating this horrific problem is for people to understand what it looks like and know how to take action. For ITV's Coronation Street to take on such a challenging topic will no doubt be of great help in this.
“The victims we support tell us how they fear to break free because they don't believe someone will help them. We hope that this story of one woman's ordeal will help more people not only to realise the reality of modern slavery in today's society but also the importance of being aware of suspicious signs around us and to report any concerns they have to the authorities. In this way lives can be saved.
“We are also grateful to ITV for the responsible way in which they have worked with us to ensure that the story told is authentic and sensitive to the reality of the experiences of the thousands of people supported by The Salvation Army.”
Coronation Street producer, Iain McLeod said: “This is one of the biggest hidden scandals in the UK today. Our research has shown us that in many towns and cities across Britain, people are being forced to work against their will, living in extreme poverty and in fear for their safety, all so ruthless criminal gangs can get rich at their expense.
“We are keen to highlight that slavery hides in plain sight - the salon which does your nails for a too-good-to-be-true price, the car wash which valets your hatchback for half the going rate... these could all be staffed by people who are being coerced, threatened and exploited. Yes, they might seem upbeat and friendly to talk to - but is there something darker and more tragic going on that we don’t stop to notice? If you’re getting a service for a price that seems unreal, ask yourself how that’s possible.”
The Government estimates slavery in the UK to be between 10,000 and 13,000 people in slavery in the UK but this is considered an underestimation. Because it is a hidden problem it is difficult to estimate.