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Hidden in plain sight - Salvation Army says more people in slavery are being forced to commit crime

by Donna Birrell

The number of people rescued from modern slavery after being forced to commit crimes rose by 62% in 12 months, according to a new report by The Salvation Army.

It says between July 2020 and June 2021, a total of 2662 survivors of modern slavery in England and Wales were referred to The Salvation Army for help. Of these, 470 had been forced to commit crimes such as growing or dealing drugs, begging, and shoplifting.

1616 (61%) were men and 1046 (39%) women. Nearly half (1317) were aged 26 to 39, and almost a fifth (767) were 18 to 25.
The survivors were of 96 different nationalities. The largest number were 523 Albanians, followed by 341 British. There were also 202 Sudanese, an 87% increase on the previous year that The Salvation Army believes is a result of war, oppression and poverty in Sudan.

Forced labour, where people are made to work in places like farms, factories, building sites and restaurants for little or no pay remains the most common way survivors were exploited, with 1,030 referred to The Salvation Army this year. There were also 647 survivors of sexual exploitation and 187 who had been domestic slaves.

Major Kathy Betteridge, The Salvation Army’s Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery said:

“Behind these statistics are real people who have had their freedom stolen and been used and abused as mere commodities. They come to us fearful and traumatised with nowhere else to turn for help.

“The perpetrators often target the most vulnerable in our society: those in poverty, people who are homeless, those with mental health problems and those with addictions. We fear that the economic fallout from the pandemic will put even more people at risk of falling prey to modern slavery.

“Despite the number of people that have been rescued this year, many more across the country are still trapped in slavery unable to escape. We can all help fight modern slavery by raising the alarm if we are worried.” 

Anyone who is a victim of modern slavery or is concerned about someone else can contact The Salvation Army’s confidential 24/7 referral advice line on 0800 808 3733.

The full Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery 2021 report can be found here : Modern slavery | The Salvation Army

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