Criminal gangs tighten grip on modern slavery in the UK
published on 13 Oct 2022
Last year 3,068 people were rescued and supported in safe houses and outreach services, the majority of whom had been forced to commit crimes, work against their will, or coerced into sex work.
This is a 15% increase on the previous year. The Salvation Army is warning that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The figures are part of the church and charity’s eleventh annual report on its work providing specialist support to adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales through the Government’s Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract.
The report showed that from July 2021 to June 2022 of the 3,068 people, from 100 different nationalities, referred to The Salvation Army and its partners:
- 46% experienced labour exploitation such as being forced to work in factories, building sites or farms with little or no pay – a 36% rise from 2020/21
- 23% experienced sexual exploitation – a 10% rise from 2020/21
- 19.5% experienced criminal exploitation like being forced to sell drugs – a 27% rise from 2020/21.
Leo, not his real name, 36, was tricked by traffickers who trapped him into transporting drugs and controlled every aspect of his life until he ran for his life. Leo came to England to work in healthcare, having had a successful career in his home country in Eastern Europe. After a while he became involved with a group who asked him if he wanted to earn extra money driving overseas, reassuring him it was a legal job.
However, when he arrived overseas he was taken to a room and threatened with a knife while his passport, phone and car were removed before he was allowed to return to the UK. Here the gang watched him at all times and controlled his every movement, forcing him to sleep in his car and deliver drugs.
“I knew if I refused, things would be bad for me. If I said no, they would kill me – I knew too much information… I was very afraid. For now, I was alive.”
With the gang members in pursuit Leo eventually managed to run away and tell his story to police who contacted The Salvation Army. Since arriving in a Salvation Army safe house in another part of the country, Leo has grown to feel safe at last, had help overcoming his addiction, finding a job he loves and is now looking for a home of his own.
He said: “They were extremely kind and supported me every single time I needed it. They understood my addiction – they knew that was not me, it was just an addiction. Without the support of The Salvation Army, I’d be dead, it’s as dramatic as that.”
Major Kathy Betteridge, The Salvation Army’s Director of Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said:
“Organised crime is at the heart of the modern slavery. Violent gangs think nothing of trafficking people to sell and force them in criminal activity. It’s also important to remember that it’s not just people who are trafficked from overseas, British people are the second most common nationality in our services. The sophisticated and often brutal methods used to trick and manipulate people into slavery touches all nationalities.
“You can help The Salvation Army and the police in our battle against this vile trade in people’s lives. People trapped in modern slavery are hidden in plain sight in villages, towns and cities across the UK. We can all help fight modern slavery and raise the alarm if we spot something suspicious and are worried that someone is being exploited. So many of the people we support in our services had been trapped for years but your call could be the start of their path to freedom and recovery.”
The Salvation Army’s free confidential 24/7 referral helpline 0800 808 3733 is available for anyone who suspects they or someone they have met may be a victim of modern slavery and needs help.
Over the last 11 years, The Salvation Army and its partners’ specialist support workers have helped 18,291 survivors get medical care, counselling and legal advice and a safe place to stay where needed.
Read the full report
Salvation Army Modern Slavery Annual Report 2022
Annual report on The Salvation Army's Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract. July 2021 - June 2022.