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‘Record high’ calls to helpline for trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude

A charity says its anti-slavery helpline had its busiest year ever with sex trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude calls at a record high.

22/05/23

‘Record high’ calls to helpline for trafficking, forced labour and domestic servitude

New figures from anti-slavery charity Unseen show annual calls to its helpline are at a record high, with significant increases in reports of forced labour, domestic servitude and people being trafficked for sex in 2022.

The analysis of calls to the helpline identified a potential 6,516 victims of modern slavery – an increase of 116% compared to 2021.

The helpline also saw marked increases in the various forms modern slavery can take. The number of cases of labour exploitation more than doubled (an increase of 134%), while there was an increase of 66% in the number of cases where people were forced into sex work. There were also 114 cases of domestic servitude, where people are forced to work as servants in a home – an increase of 75%.

The charity also warned of a “huge increase” in potential victims in the care sector with more than 700 reported in 2022 – a tenfold increase on 2021.

The figures are part of the Helpline’s Annual Assessment, one of the most detailed reports on the nature of modern slavery in the UK.

It covers potential victims from 99 countries, with Romania being the most common, followed by India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Albania, China and the UK.

The findings, which also include figures for every UK nation and region, are used by charities, the police, local and national governments and businesses to inform policy and approaches to slavery and human trafficking.
Justine Carter, Director of Unseen and co-author of the Annual Assessment, said the numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg”.

“Every call we get is one too many as slavery should not exist today. However, it’s encouraging that more people are contacting us so that we can help them out of a life of misery.

“There are around 100,000 people in the UK in modern slavery, so these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s still a lot we can and must do to prevent vulnerable people from falling prey to callous exploiters.”

“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.

“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.

“We should be doing more to expose the extent of slavery – not driving it further into the shadows.”

You can see the signs of slavery to look out for on Unseen’s website (http://unseenuk.org) and call the Helpline, any time of day or night, on 08000 121 700.

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