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World News

Salvation Army urges vigilance as number of modern slavery victims reaches record high

by Donna Birrell

The number of potential victims of modern slavery reached a record level last year, with 17,004 people referred to the Home Office.

A quarter of all those referred (4,088) were female, with children (7,432) making up four in ten referrals. That’s the highest number since the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) began in 2009 and a slight increase on 2022 which saw 16,921 referrals.

Kathy Betteridge who is The Salvation Army’s Director Anti-Trafficking and Slavery told Premier:

“It’s tragic. Criminals who perpetrate these crimes can make a lot of money from a human and people are very vulnerable at the moment. There are so many war-torn countries and people living in poverty, so the perpetrators target vulnerable people.

“It isn’t new, we’ve been seeing this since The Salvation Army was first founded. But since 2011, we've been providing support for individuals and we've seen the figures rise. Last year, a total of over 3500 came into our service. But since 2011 we've supported over 22,000. So the figures, sadly, are increasing.”

Kathy Betteridge says certain types of industries can be more prone to being targeted by traffickers:

“It can vary, but for men, it can be construction work, for men and women it can be the catering industry. The care sector is a growing concern, because people are being brought into this country to work in that sector. And they find that the job they're coming into isn't the job that they expect, which is the theme across the experience of many of our client group when they come to us for support.

“People who are caught up in modern slavery are working in places where we meet them and we need to be aware of their vulnerability. They can look quite unkempt or malnourished.”

Kathy Betteridge recalled the experience of a man who came from West Africa to further his career, but found when he arrived in the UK he was taken to a house and kept with 25 others in a six bedroom property. The woman who was his agent took him and the others to work every day from 7am until 10pm and took their money:

“It’s those kinds of situations where somebody is starting very early, working long hours, and being escorted by another individual. I would strongly urge anybody who's an employer to check the agencies that they might use, check the supply chain, and look out for the signs that might indicate that something isn't quite right. And then I would urge them to report it to the police.

“The Salvation Army also has a 24/7 helpline. When somebody is rescued they will receive specialist support. They will be allocated a support worker and given medical care, legal support, counselling, financial support. So please do contact us. No piece of information is useless.”

A quarter of those referred to the NRM in 2023 were of UK nationality (4,299), making it the most common nationality for referrals.

The second was Albanian (4,052) and third was Vietnamese (991).

To access support in the UK victims of slavery and human trafficking have to be assessed under the NRM.

If you suspect someone is a victim of modern slavery and in need of help call The Salvation Army's confidential 24/7 referral helpline on 0800 808 3733.


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