The new 2018 Global Slavery Index estimates that Britain is home to around 136,000 victims of modern slavery, far surpassing the government’s own statistics. This means that 1 in 500 people in Britain were trapped in modern slavery in 2016.

In contrast, in 2013 the government suggested that only 13,000 victims of forced labor, sex trafficking, and domestic servitude existed in the country. Police have said, however, that the true number is likely in the tens of thousands.

“This report reinforces that we are dealing with an evolving threat,” said Tom Dowdall of the National Crime Agency (NCA). The organization received 5,145 reports of suspected cases of slavery in 2017, up more than a third from 3,804 in 2016.

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

Britain has been regarded as an global leader in the fight against trafficking since passing the 2015 Modern Slavery Act to fight a crime estimated to raise annual profits of $150 billion.

The GSI ranked Britain as the third best country for tackling slavery, behind the United States and the Netherlands.

Yet activists say Britain not yet made a serious dent in the illicit trade, and the country this week launched an inquiry into its anti-slavery efforts, citing concerns over the effectiveness of its landmark law and limited victim support.

“The figures in this report are not based on UK statistics, but clearly this highlights the seriousness of this crime,” said a spokesman for Britain’s Home Office (interior ministry).

Jakub Sobik, spokesman for London-based Anti-Slavery International, added that “The (GSI) number is much bigger than previous estimates because the discussion is evolving and new forms of slavery are emerging.”

“We are still learning about the hidden phenomenon but this new figure indicates the scale of modern slavery.”

Forced labor is known to be particularly prevalent at construction sites, nail bars, car washes, factories, and farms across Britain. Police also point to a growing trend of children being forced to carry and sell drugs between urban and rural centers.

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