The Unseen UK app, which launched yesterday (July 30), includes a contact form and phone number to report suspicions, as well as information helping victims of human rights abuses to get support.

The free app also offers users advice on signs of modern slavery to be aware of, including poor physical appearance, psychological issues, isolation, substandard living conditions and restricted freedom.

BT’s head of modern slavery, Eric Anderson, said the app would help increase awareness and action from the public – a move which he believes is “critical to turning the tide” on the issue.

“The Unseen UK app makes it easier than ever to help people spot the signs and report concerns because it’s there in your pocket when you need it,” Anderson said.

“If just one victim of modern slavery uses our app – or gets help because someone else has used it – then every single moment of our time spent developing it has been worth it.”

Modernising mitigation

Discussions of modern slavery elicit imagery often associated with developing countries. However, 2016 Home Office figures estimate there are 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK and the number of people identified as slaves in the country continues to increase each year.

The launch of the Unseen app came after the latest Modern Slavery Helpline data revealed an 80% increase in calls and online reports during the first six months of 2018, compared to the same period last year.

The data additionally revealed that the helpline service, which is operated by Unseen in partnership with organisations such as Google, BT and Marks and Spencer (M&S), identified 4,100 potential modern slavery victims from January to June this year, compared to 1,500 during the same period in 2017.

Unseen’s chief executive, Andrew Wallis, said it is now “crucial” for those combatting slavery to “evolve” their actions as traffickers use ever-more sophisticated technology to exploit their victims.

“Whether that is technology for businesses to map their supply chains or an app for everyone to have in their pocket at the nail bar, car wash or takeaway, this isn’t just a gimmick, it’s an essential part of the fight to eradicate slavery,” Wallis said.

The launch of the app comes just weeks after BT announced that it will collaborate with Microsoft and Nokia to work with the United Nations (UN) in a drive to develop technologies that help tackle modern slavery and human trafficking in supply chains.

The coalition of companies, along with support from NGOs like techUK and civil service providers, will map and analyse existing technology-focused initiatives to tackle human rights issues, with a view to making these services more unified.

Supply chain transparency at Responsible Retail 2018

Solving key supply chain challenges – including modern slavery – will be one of the key themes of edie’s third annual Responsible Retail conference, taking place on 20 September 2018 at 99 City Road, London.

The full-day event has been designed for the retailers, sustainability professionals and key stakeholders that are looking for the information, insight and inspiration required to seize the sustainability opportunity.

Find out more about Responsible Retail 2018 and register to attend here.

Sarah George  

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