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Apple has announced a programme to help human trafficking victims get behind-the-scenes jobs at its stores. The technology company has teamed up with an NGO that will help the victims pass interviews for caretaker and landscaping posts among other roles.

The individuals will not be identified to Apple and will be employed by its suppliers rather than directly. But it intends to monitor the initiative.

The announcement coincides with the company winning the Stop Slavery Award. The prize was given by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and accepted by Apple’s retail chief Angela Ahrendts in London.

It recognises companies that are at the forefront of efforts to combat forced labour in supply chains.

Judges praised the Apple’s “extremely robust” audit programme and the fact it had “openly shared its learnings with the public”.

Unilever’s chief executive, Paul Polman, was also presented with an award in recognition of the work he had done.

But one campaign group described the decision to honour Apple as “a joke”.

“Apple may be doing more compared to other companies but that is because it has the resources to do so,” said Li Qiang, executive director of China Labor Watch.

“However, Apple isn’t doing enough, as forced labour persists in its suppliers’ factories in China.”

Apple’s trafficking victims scheme is already under way, although the BBC understands only a handful of people have been employed as consequence so far. The UN’s International Organization for Migration is the NGO involved.

Although the effort is currently limited to jobs with third-party contractors, in time it may be extended to include front-of-house retail staff employed by Apple itself.

“Though we have only just started, we see huge opportunity to be a beacon of hope for trafficking survivors integrating them into our retail team,” Ms Ahrendts said in her acceptance speech.

“These efforts are just a part of a broader set of initiatives to eliminate modern slavery from every part of our company, in every part of the world.”

In the UK, the Co-operative Group has run a similar scheme since 2017.

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