Level of slavery and trafficking in UK exposed
Modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) in the UK is far more prevalent than previously thought, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
A growing body of evidence resulting from an increase in law enforcement activity points to the numbers of victims being much higher than estimated, and the threat continuing to expand.
The term ‘modern slavery’ subsumes the offences of human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, including sexual or criminal exploitation.
The NCA this week released figures showing there are currently more than 300 live policing operations targeting modern slavery in the UK.
More than a dozen of the highest risk operations targeting organised crime groups are being led by the NCA.
Will Kerr, the NCA’s director of vulnerabilities, said: “Modern slavery has rightly been made a priority across law enforcement, but it is a hidden crime so the onus is on us to seek it out.
“The more that we look for modern slavery the more we find the evidence of the widespread abuse of vulnerable.
“The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought. The intelligence we are gaining is showing that there are likely to be far more victims out there, and the numbers of victims in the UK has been underestimated.”
In response the NCA has begun a new campaign focused on sexual and labour exploitation, explaining how the public can help stop it.
Over the next six months the campaign will highlight the signs of modern slavery which people may encounter in their everyday lives, and encourage them to report it.
Mr Kerr said: “This is a crime which affects all types of communities across every part of the United Kingdom. It is difficult to spot because often victims don’t even know they are being exploited. Nevertheless we need those communities to be our eyes and ears.
“There will be people living and working where victims come into contact with everyone else’s so-called normal lives.
“They may see something they feel is not quite right. That might be someone seeming afraid, vulnerable or being controlled, moved around or forced to work against their will. If they do, we need the public to speak to us.”