Home UK News Britain at “record high” for slave labour, sex trafficking, and domestic servitude

Britain at “record high” for slave labour, sex trafficking, and domestic servitude

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The anti-slavery organisation Unseen reports a record number of contacts to its helpline, with substantially more allegations of forced labour, domestic servitude, and human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

Between 2021 and 2022, there was a “huge increase” in the number of contacts to the UK Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline reporting potential victims of forced labour in care homes or private residences, according to Unseen, which is calling for legislation that criminalises victims to be scrapped.

“To be serious about tackling modern slavery in the UK we need much more awareness of the true size of the problem, better support for victims, and many more resources going into targeting the criminals behind the exploitation”, said Justine Carter, director of Unseen.

“Instead, the UK is bringing in new migration laws that criminalise some victims of modern slavery, forcing them underground and keeping them vulnerable to traffickers.”

Prime Minister RIshi Sunak is anticipated to address a Council of Europe meeting in Iceland that human trafficking enforcement “does not work.”

“It is abundantly clear that our current international system is not working, and our communities and the most vulnerable people in the world are paying the price,” Sunak said prior to the trip. “We must do more to cooperate across borders and jurisdictions to end illegal migration and stop the boats.”

Nevertheless, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Prime Minister of “hypocrisy” and “trying to make it easier for trafficking gangs in the UK” with the Illegal Immigration Bill.

“If he really believes countries should tackle trafficking he should stop pushing through legislation at home which will make it even harder to prosecute traffickers,” Cooper said in a statement.

The Illegal Migration Bill, which is currently being forced through parliament, aims to “prevent and deter unlawful migration,” but activists claim that it will prohibit aid for victims of human trafficking and other forms of modern enslavement.

Under the law, authentic victims of human trafficking who arrive in the United Kingdom on small vessels will be excluded from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the government’s framework for identifying victims of modern enslavement and referring them for support. This means that a vulnerable individual who arrives in the United Kingdom to seek asylum but is then trafficked into enslavement will be criminalised instead of the traffickers.

The number of cases of labour exploitation in sectors such as hospitality, construction, agriculture, and retail reported by the helpline increased by 134%.

In 2021, a call to the helpline led to the discovery of nine vulnerable Indian students being exploited in north Wales care homes. They were discovered resting on mattresses in crowded, unhygienic conditions, and they were described as constantly hungry.

More than 6,500 potential cases of human trafficking were reported to the helpline in 2022, an increase of 116% from the previous year. However, this is only “the tip of the iceberg,” as Unseen estimates that approximately 100,000 people in the United Kingdom are in modern slavery.

“It’s encouraging that more people are contacting us so that we can help them escape a life of misery,” said Carter, “but every call we receive is one too many because slavery should not exist today.”

The helpline reported 479 cases of sexual exploitation, in which individuals are compelled to perform sex labour, an increase of 66%.

Domestic servitude, a form of compelled labour in which individuals working as housekeepers, caretakers, chefs, or guardians in private households are unable to quit, increased by 75%.

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