The 2019 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery has recently been published. It makes for very sobering reading.
The report drew on three main sources of data on the potential scale of modern slavery in the UK:
1) Referrals of potential victims to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the UK's identification and support system for victims of modern slavery. In 2018, there were 6,985 potential victims referred to the NRM, of whom 45% were exploited as children. This total of potential victims represented a 36% increase from 2017.
2) Referrals of potential victims under the "duty to notify" provision of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. In 2018, 1,551 potential adult victims were referred via a duty to notify.
3) The number of modern slavery crimes recorded by the police. In the twelve months prior to March 2019, police in England and Wales recorded 5,059 modern slavery offences, a 49% increase on the previous year.
The report mentioned though that it is difficult to correctly assess the prevalence of modern slavery, as traditional means of measuring crime are less effective at measuring the scale of the crime which remains largely hidden.
The report highlighted the areas the government will continue to focus on over the coming years, including:
a) establishing a Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre which is due to open this autumn, to understand and prevent modern slavery occurring based on evidence and research;
b) putting in place a central reporting service for annual Transparency in Supply Chain statements to hold businesses to account, and consulting on measures to strengthen transparency in supply chain legislation (with the government due to publish its response to the consultation shortly);
c) appointing an International Modern Slavery and Migration Envoy to work with countries from which the UK receives the highest number of victims and to work on a global scale including by working with multilateral fora such as the G7, G20, Commonwealth and UN; and
d) continuing to roll out Independent Child Trafficking Guardians, an independent source of advice for trafficked children.
Victims of human trafficking, forced labour, sexual exploitation and domestic exploitation cower in plain sight in our towns, businesses and communities. This is an outrage we refuse to ignore. The UK Government is determined to end modern slavery and to restore freedom, dignity and fundamental human rights to its victims. We remain at the forefront of the global fight against this inhumane trade in human beings.