Human trafficking and modern slavery have risen in the UK, claims the National Crime Agency (NCA). A report published by the NCA on 26 March showed [pdf, p1] that the number of suspected victims of trafficking and slavery increased by 35% in 2017. Of the 5,145 suspected victims from 116 countries, 2,118 were minors. Most cases involved forced labour or sexual exploitation.
“An underestimate of the true scale of slavery in the UK”
NCA director Will Kerr said:
It is our assessment that the increase we are seeing here is driven by an increased awareness and greater reporting of modern slavery and that is to be welcomed.
However, it also adds further evidence to our view that the figures almost certainly represent an underestimate of the true scale of slavery and trafficking in the UK.
For the first time, British citizens were the largest national group [pdf, p7] recorded in the figures, up from 326 in 2016 to 819 in 2017. This includes 676 minors [pdf, p11] and reflects the 66% overall increase [pdf, p1] in the number of minors who are suspected victims of forced labour or sexual exploitation. The next two largest national groups were Vietnamese and Albanian.
Minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability responds
This government is leading the world in our response to this horrendous crime – through the Modern Slavery Act 2015 giving law enforcement the powers they need to pursue offenders and working to bring this issue out of the shadows and increase awareness among police, front line workers and the general public.
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Labour’s shadow home secretary responds
Diane Abbott MP, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said:
The National Crime Agency report shows that recorded modern slavery is clearly rising… But the Tories cut staff at the Border Force, have axed 21,000 police officers and cut other police staff. They are the frontline in the fight against modern slavery… Labour will add hundreds of new border guards and ten thousand new police officers and tackle the scourge of modern slavery head-on.
An evolving threat
The NCA considers slavery to be “an evolving threat”. Criminals have gone online. There are also crossovers between slavery, trafficking migrants, and organised crime outside the UK.
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