England

Slavery reports rise fivefold, Salvation Army says

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Media captionModern slavery: On the police beat in Manchester

The Salvation Army says it has seen nearly a fivefold rise in the number of slavery victims it has helped in England and Wales since 2012.

The charity says it supported 1,805 people from April 2015 to March 2016.

By comparison, it had 378 referrals between July 2011 and June 2012 - its first year of operating the government contract to support victims.

The Home Office said the rise was a sign that efforts to highlight modern slavery were working.

Sarah Newton, minister for safeguarding, vulnerability and countering extremism, said: "Slavery has long been hidden in plain sight, and our policy is designed to encourage more victims to come forward and ask for help.

"We welcome increases in the number of referrals as a sign that our efforts to shine a light on modern slavery are working."

'Like digging my own grave'

One slavery victim said she came to England from south-east Asia to work as a servant in the home of a wealthy family.

She says she was forced to work 14 hours a day for less than £100 a week, and that she even had to work on building sites.

"I felt like a chained dog. It was like I was digging my own grave.

"Even though I'm out now, I still feel like I'm in chains. I still have nightmares that my boss is chasing me."

The woman, who wants to remain anonymous, is now at a safe house in Manchester and is applying for asylum to stay in the UK.

Anne Read, director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery at the Salvation Army, said the nature of the crime meant it was "always difficult to know the full extent of the problem" and the increase in referrals could be because there were more victims but also "improvements in training and awareness-raising".

However, she added that the minimum 45-day reflection and recovery period granted by the government for victims of human trafficking or slavery was insufficient.

"If [victims] don't get the support that they need, then the potential is that they could, once again, be exploited and that's the worst thing that could happen as far as we're concerned.

"Forty-five days isn't long enough to support somebody - it gives them a chance to breathe, perhaps to recover their status quo, but it is only the very start of the process."

Industry slaves

The Home Office said the 45-day duration was a minimum and could be extended by a further 14 days on certain grounds.

The Salvation Army said that:

  • 44% of its referrals had been subjected to sexual exploitation
  • 42% had been victims of labour exploitation - working within industries such as agriculture and construction
  • 13% had been held in domestic servitude

Recent Home Office figures estimate there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK, with 45 million victims worldwide.

Areas from which victims supported by the Salvation Army were referred - 2015/16
Region Number Percentage
London 474 26.26%
South East 262 14.52%
West Midlands 241 13.35%
North West 182 10.08%
North East 134 7.42%
East Midlands 67 3.71%
Wales 65 3.60%
South West 54 2.99%
Eastern 22 1.22%
Not Known 301 16.68%

In July, Prime Minister Theresa May wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that she wanted Britain to "lead the way in defeating modern slavery", adding that there would be a new UK cabinet taskforce while £33m from the aid budget would fund initiatives overseas.

A review to mark the first anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which she drew up as home secretary, found 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted last year.

The Salvation Army said that it was supporting victims from nearly 100 different countries.

Top nationalities of the slavery victims supported by the Salvation Army - 2015/16
Nationality Number of female victims Number of male victims Total
Albanian 266 3 269
Polish 17 131 148
Nigerian 124 12 136
Vietnamese 57 48 105
Romanian 28 74 102
Slovak 13 26 39
British 8 26 34
Sudanese 0 33 33
Eritrean 21 11 32
Chinese 16 12 28
Lithuanian 14 14 28

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