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This uni campaign shows how easy it is to miss signs of modern day slavery


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If you’re wandering around Hull today, you might chance upon some cardboard boxes in the middle of the pavement.

Nope, the bin men have forgotten to come round this week, but in fact a poignant campaign from the University of Hull on Anti-Slavery Day.

Each box is the size of a person and has a job title on it, like “nail technician” or “construction worker”. They symbolise the people trapped in modern day slavery without anyone around them realising it. The campaign is aptly called “Hidden in plain sight”, to encourage people to open their eyes and recognise the signs of slavery.

A recent study by the University of Hull found that 55% of people didn’t know how to spot if someone was being held as a slave.

John Oldfield, director of the Wilberforce Institute at the University of Hull, said there is still a “critical amount of work to be done” to increase public awareness about slavery.

“Modern day slavery often plays out in plain sight and can be difficult to detect, especially if people don’t know what signs to look for,” he said.

So what are the signs of modern day slavery? Victims may appear unfamiliar with their surroundings, show signs of physical or emotional abuse – such as being malnourished or scared – and be unwilling to interact with strangers. They are likely to travel at unusual times, such as very early in the morning or very late at night; live in overcrowded, unhygienic conditions and own no identification documents.

With the Home Office estimating that around 1,300 people are trapped in slavery in the UK, days like today are important to raise awareness for something that is still very much a modern problem.

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