There’s been a surge in the number of potential victims of modern slavery in the UK. In just three months, the Home Office has seen an increase by more than a fifth — that means some 30 suspected victims of slavery are referred to the government each day.
According to official government data 2,808 people feared to have been trafficked were reported to the National Referral Mechanism – Britain’s framework for identifying victims. That’s an increase of 21% compared to the previous quarter and a 61% rise compared to this time last year.
Victims referred to the NRM were of 91 different nationalities, most commonly from the UK, Albania, and Vietnam. Vietnamese nationals are among the top victims exploited in nail bars and forced to grow cannabis in Britain.
The Independent reports:
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.
He said: “As I have continuously stated, decision-making should not be a role of the Home Office, this is a serious crime and needs multi-agency professionals such as health, housing and police involved to meet the needs of the victims.
“How can a life-changing decision be made remotely by a person who never meets a victim?”
“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), added that while it was good more victims would potentially receive help, the UK was “still failing on preventing exploitation in the first place.”
“Hostile environment policies, lack of regulation and woeful under-funding of labour inspection are all well-evidenced drivers of modern slavery, yet government has refused to address them. Without deep action to tackle these drivers, victimisation will continue to rise,” noted Kenway.