Salvation Army warns that economic crisis could increase vulnerability to human trafficking gangs

published on 21 May 2020

The Salvation Army has participated in a virtual Hidden Harms Summit in Downing Street today, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The summit brought together key organisations aiming to tackle domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and modern slavery in the light of coronavirus pandemic.

Major Kathy Betteridge, Director for Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery, represented The Salvation Army in a plenary session with the Prime Minister and other representatives from government, police, victims’ charities, frontline workers and the private sector.    

She then took part in a discussion chaired by Justice Secretary & Lord Chancellor, Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP, to address the impacts of coronavirus and lockdown measures on victims of hidden crimes. Together with Government ministers and representatives from other leading organisations supporting victims of crime, Kathy shared the experiences and voiced concerns on behalf of the thousands of recovering victims of modern slavery currently supported by The Salvation Army.    

Major Betteridge said: “Last year there was a 58% rise in British nationals needing help from The Salvation Army’s network of safe houses and outreach workers, making British people the fifth most common nationality accessing our specialist support. Many of these were young or vulnerable people exploited by ‘County Lines’ gangs trafficking drugs into rural areas. As lockdown measures are eased and the economic impact of coronavirus is felt, we need to ensure that more at risk people in our society are not trapped in this and other forms of exploitation.”   

Since 2011 The Salvation Army has supported more than 10,000 victims of modern slavery from 100’s of countries across the globe with large numbers coming from Albania, Vietnam, China, Romania, Nigeria and India.   

Active in more than 131 countries, The Salvation Army has been promoting awareness and delivering support to help communities in developing countries build resilience to the drivers of human trafficking. Looking to the future it is calling for vigilance to protect these vulnerable communities from the tricks and traps of human traffickers.  

Major Betteridge said:  “As lockdown eases and transport networks reopen - both across the UK and internationally – there will be an urgent need to remain vigilant as criminal gangs will once again be looking to exploit and move victims between communities, regions and across borders.  

“The likely destitution created by coronavirus in developing countries will lead to poverty and debt bondage, two of the key drivers which makes people vulnerable to coercion or risking human trafficker’s fake promises of legitimate work.   

“The Salvation Army is urging Government to work collaboratively with other agencies, including police and border staff, and NGOs across international borders, to ensure that we limit these push factors of victims of modern slavery being exploited overseas and here in the UK.”

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