New modern slavery data reveals increase in sexual exploitation for third year running

Figures from a modern slavery charity’s helpline have shown a 15% increase in sexual exploitation, rising for the third consecutive year amid warnings that the conflict in Ukraine will make matters worse.

04/04/22

New modern slavery data reveals increase in sexual exploitation for third year running

Reports of sexual exploitation, where people are forced into prostitution and performing sexual acts, have jumped by 15% over the past year, according to new figures on the state of modern slavery in the UK.

The findings – which show a significant increase for the third year running – come amid warnings that the Ukraine war will make the situation worse, as vulnerable women and child refugees are preyed upon by traffickers.

“The continued increase in reports of sexual exploitation is extremely worrying, and the Ukraine war could add fuel to the fire,” said Justine Currell, Director of Unseen.

“In a refugee crisis, when there are many vulnerable people on the move, you’ll find criminals trying to exploit the situation – and that includes human traffickers.”

The figures, published this week (5 April 2022), are part of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline Annual Assessment, a yearly stocktake of UK slavery and human trafficking.

The stocktake, which saw nearly 8,500 contacts in 2021 from victims, professionals working in services such as the NHS, businesses and members of the public identified a potential 3,019 victims of modern slavery indicated as a result of this contact. More than one in twenty (6.4%) victims were children.

The report showed a significant (51%) increase in the number of modern slavery cases where a potential victim contacted the Helpline themselves, with potential victims coming from 76 nationalities, with Romania being the most common, followed by Vietnam, China, Albania and Sudan.

Data from the Helpline, which is run by the anti-slavery charity Unseen, helps to shed light on the nature and scale of slavery in the UK where, experts estimate, there are up to 136,000 in slavery at any one time.

Data is used by other charities, the police, and business, as well as local and national governments to inform policy and respond directly to reports of slavery and human trafficking.

The Helpline is free, staffed by trained advisors and operates around the clock.

“The bulk of the reports we’re getting about sexual exploitation are tip-offs about private addresses as well as online ads where the sex buyer has reported something to us,” continued Justine Currell, who helped to develop the Modern Slavery Act.

“This crime is well hidden, yet often right under our noses. I urge the public to contact us if they have the slightest suspicions about anything they’ve seen.

“We rely on the public and frontline workers in places like the NHS and police to contact us about anything they’ve seen.

“You can see the signs of slavery to look out for on our website, but if you are worried about anything, it’s always best to get in touch.”

Read the full assessment: www.unseen.org.uk

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