Salvation Army calls for vigilance as latest slavery statistics land
published on 8 Jun 2020
Government figures released on 4 June 2020 of the number of suspected modern slavery victims identified in the UK from January to March 2020, show a 14 percent decrease from the previous three months.
This drop is considered to be an impact of the lockdown measures in place to control the coronavirus pandemic. The data, which covers both child and adult victims, comes from the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the official system through which adult victims of modern slavery are identified and referred to The Salvation Army which provides them with specialist support through its network of safe houses and outreach workers.
Responding to this report, Major Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army said:
“It is understandable that lockdown measures and closed international borders would result in a temporary fall in the number of slavery victims being identified. Our pressing concern is that social distancing measures will have led to slave masters discarding people they had been forcing to work in places like restaurants, hotels and car washes and that these victims may not know there is help available. Where are these people now who urgently need to be identified and provided with our protective care?
“Already during the lockdown Salvation Army officers and volunteers have been able to work with police to rescue and support victims of slavery who have come to our foodbanks and community centres for help, homeless and destitute having been discarded by their traffickers.
“As lockdown eases and international borders reopen, we anticipate that the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic will sadly lead to many more people, both British nationals and people trafficked from overseas, being exploited in the UK. A worldwide economic downturn linked to coronavirus will leave many more people in poverty. This will result in them becoming susceptible to criminals wanting to exploit demand for cheap labour or prey on young or vulnerable people to exploit in ‘County Lines’ networks smuggling drugs into rural areas. We need to ensure that people at risk in our society are not trapped and mistreated in this way.
“The Salvation Army will continue our activities across the world to support the communities most at risk of this kind of exploitation.
“Throughout the current pandemic our safe houses and outreach services have remained operating within Government guidelines, and we have adapted the way we work so we can continue to help people access the support they need as they begin to rebuild their lives.”