Horrifically in October 2019, 39 Vietnamese migrants were found dead in the back of a Lorry in Essex. Amongst the dead was a teenager reported to have paid the steep price to get into the UK to work in one of the many high-street nail bars.
In 2016 the Global Slavery Index calculated there are 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK. Of the 5,145 potential victims of modern slavery referred through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2018, almost 50% were being exploited for labour in sectors such as car washes and nail bars. Most likely you yourself have come into contact with another human being who has been trafficked or smuggled into the country.
This is exactly what journalist for the Guardian, Amelia Gentleman, is raising awareness of as she joined police on the raid of a nail bar suspected of human slavery and trafficking. It makes for bleak but hopeful reading as the police work hard to crack down on these establishments.
As reported in the article Millie Kendall, CEO of the British Beauty Council, says two decades ago she only knew of two nail salons in London, but new products, (extensions, fillers, shellac) and the rise of instagram sharing of nail art has made this a rapidly accelerating industry with multiple shops on most high streets. “The business has changed beyond recognition. Nail art has changed the game and made it a more creative industry. The flip side is that we are very under regulated and that’s a real problem for us. Bad products are being used, people get funguses, skin problems and there are slaves.” She hopes the government will move to license the industry.
Whilst the police continue to crack down on human trafficking and slavery there is only so much the limited funds can support. It is important that we as customers are also vigilant. You can watch out for the following signs when choosing your nail salon as described by Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first anti-slavery commissioner (who stepped down in 2018)
For more advice: https://www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/about/spot-the-signs
And if you suspect modern slavery? Ring this helpline and report it: 08000 121 700