Modern Day Slavery

Thirty potential modern slavery victims are being referred to the Home Office each day after cases surged more than a fifth in three months, prompting questions over whether enough resource is being put into tackling the issue.

Government data shows 2,808 people feared to have been trafficked were reported to the National Referral Mechanism – Britain’s framework for identifying victims – in the three months to October. This amounts to a 21 per cent increase on the previous quarter and a 61 per cent rise on the same period last year – and marks the biggest increase since 2014.

Campaigners said that while it indicated increased awareness, ministers were failing to address “well-evidenced drivers” of modern slavery and direct adequate resources to tackling the problem.

The potential victims were of 91 different nationalities, but those most commonly referred were from the UK, which accounted for 26 per cent of cases, Albania and Vietnam.

Forty per cent – or 1,175 – potential victims were children, and the most common type of exploitation for both adults and minors was labour-related, the figures showed.

Kevin Hyland, the former anti-slavery commissioner for the UK, told The Independent the system was “still inadequately resourced” for dealing with the problem.

“How can a life-changing decision be made remotely by a person who never meets a victim?”

He added: “In cases of rape specialist health care professionals, sexual offences trained police officers and NGOs are engaged from the outset. 

“In cases of modern slavery, the entire process can be delayed or even disconnected at the discretion of a civil servant who may be many miles away.”

Emily Kenway, senior adviser at Focus on Labour Exploitation (Flex), said that while it was “good news” that more people were being supported to escape exploitation, the rise in victims showed the UK was “still failing on preventing exploitation in the first place”.