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Hidden in Plain Sight

The University's 'Hidden in Plain Sight' campaign was a stunning illustration of the extent of modern slavery.

To highlight the issue on Anti-Slavery Day, we left human-sized cardboard boxes in strategic locations around Hull city centre.

Each box bore a job title (construction worker or nail technician, for example) and asked "Can you see what's #HiddeninPlainSight?"

The text on the boxes explained: "There are an estimated 13,000 modern day slaves currently living in Britain – and yet most people don't know how to spot the signs or who to report it to."

The stunt drew attention University and YouGov research which revealed that most people had little awareness of the true scale of slavery in Britain.

The survey, commissioned by the University's Wilberforce Institute, examined the attitudes of 1,672 adults across the country.

While modern slavery was a concern for many (63%), the scale of the issue was vastly underestimated.

"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." John Oldfield,
Director of the Wilberforce Institite, University of Hull

Less than one in ten (8%) strongly believed the true number of those trapped in slavery (estimated by the Home Office at 13,000), while a third wrong thought only women were affected.

There were also misconceptions about the types of work connected with modern-day slavery. Unsurprisingly, sex work (84%) and domestic labour (64%) were the most frequent suggestions among those polled.

But people had less awareness of slavery in industries such as agriculture (44%), retail supply chains (22%) and beauty (11%).

John Oldfield, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, said: “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, which our research has highlighted is the case.

"Modern slavery is an issue that won’t be solved until everyone opens their eyes and commits to tough action.”

Kevin Hyland, the UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said: “This campaign by the University of Hull is both eye-catching and eye-opening.

"The University has not only revealed important findings, but has creatively done something about it. This research will help policy makers and academics alike to better tailor their activities and bring an end to this injustice.”

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