Let’s Nail It
A Campaign to Stop Modern Slavery in Nail Bars with Le Salon

While there has been some media coverage exposing the exploitation of trafficking victims within the nail bar industry, but it is still a topic that requires more attention. The lure of ‘fast and thrifty’ manicures is feeding this corrupt underground industry with immigrants from Asia (primarily Vietnam but also African nations, China, Thailand, Pakistan and India) being forced to work as modern slaves. Some crackdowns have been documented but without better public awareness, it is a case of ignorance fuelling a dangerous environment for those seeking a better life; with illegal immigrants especially at the mercy of these nefarious slave groups. Awareness requires louder voices in the beauty industry and from government regulatory bodies, but while consumer habits need to change, businesses themselves need to inform their customers more about the perils of visiting so-called ‘quick fix’ beauty salons which have frightening turn-arounds on treatments, often too cheap to tally with paycheques.

Unseen is a charity working towards the end of modern day slavery around the world and assists slavery survivors to become empowered, independent and resilient individuals. The government believes there are at least 13,000 men and woman being forced to work as slaves in the UK. While many trafficked humans end up in the sex or illegal drugs trade, others are forced to work in legal businesses like nail salons.

Unseen is working with Le Salon, a London-based beauty service which employs highly qualified beauty professionals who can be booked on-demand for home/work visits. The business has a strict hiring policy and was conceived as a service for both time-poor clients and experienced beauty specialists seeking freelance work. We spoke to Le Salon’s founder, Natasha Pilbrow about the charity and Le Salon’s new initiative to raise awareness about modern slavery in the nail bar industry with the launch of Unseen’s Let’s Nail It campaign this October.

Not many people would think that the beauty industry would be particularly pervious to such things as human trafficking…Can you tell me more?

Natasha: Britain’s nail bars have such a high risk of modern slavery that Britain’s independent anti-trafficking commissioner is proposing that a licensing scheme should be introduced to prevent trafficked Vietnamese migrants being employed in slave-like conditions. Efforts to tackle the problem have so-far been stalled because there are simply not enough regulations, and it is a hugely popular trade.

What was your initial reaction when you heard about it? Did it come as a surprise? What have your learned?

Absolutely, it came as a surprise, getting a manicure is something that most women enjoy and of course we all love a bargain. On reflection, I can think of salons I have visited where the numbers simply do not add up. I think most woman getting a manicure would want to know that the technicians providing the service are being paid a fair wage.

To be clear, how and why are beauty businesses used as a front for modern slavery practices?

As the industry is currently relatively unregulated it is hard to know how prevalent the issue is. The analysis of police anti-trafficking reports indicates how nail bars can become not only a place of illegal work but exploitation too, looking at the experiences of more than a dozen individuals who experienced modern slavery in a nail bar, most of whom were minors. It says: “One victim was forced to work seven days a week from the morning until 6pm or 7pm in the evening. They were paid £30 a week for their work.

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What do you think we can do as a community in London? How rife is it?

Being informed is a first step. Slaves in the salon may look withdrawn, neglected, unwell or avoid eye contact. Are they resistant to being paid directly? Are there living quarters attached to the salon? Does the manager seem overbearing or abusive? Are workers brought to and from work at the same time? Are they hesitant to talk? Can they speak English?

Can you tell me about Le Salon’s involvement in the campaign?

Between 16th October and 23rd October and LeSalon will be donating £1 from every treatment to Unseen. If you want to give more, book the Unseen Manicure and we will donate £5 on your behalf. Don’t forget to share your mani with the world! #letsnailit

You provide a professional a on demand beauty service – could you tell me why LeSalon is more reliable than a typical ‘walk in’ high street salon?

What other problems/threats are customers exposed to in these cheaper salons?
Perhaps there are some surprising ones…

Most nail damage actually occurs in the salon – harsh removal of product and over buffing the nail are the most common causes of weak nails. We ensure that all our technicians have been professionally trained and have the required certificates and insurance to provide the services we offer. In addition, many cheaper salons use a variety of different products which can be impossible to remove from the nail. We only allow our team of professionals to use professional brands.

For more information about Le Salon and the Let’s Nail It charity partnership, head to this editorial page.

 

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