Seven Lives in Captivity for Every One Rescued say new stats

published on 2 Oct 2023

New analysis by The Salvation Army shows that for every person successfully rescued from the clutches of modern slavery and given the opportunity to receive support, at least seven more remain trapped and exploited.*

The alarming warning was uncovered by comparing the Global Slavery Index ( estimate of 122,000 [1] people in the UK in slavery with the number of people offered support to recover from exploitation through services like those run in England and Wales by The Salvation Army and their partners. 

The church and charity also warns that recent legislative changes, in particular the Illegal Migration Act which passed into law this summer, will make it more difficult for genuine victims to prove they are being illegally exploited and in need of rescuing and support. Not only do the changes risk keeping people trapped in modern slavery but they reduce the chance of prosecuting the gangs who trade in vulnerable people for profit. 

However, there are two key actions that can help those trapped in modern slavery receive the help they urgently need: 

  • First, the Government should review the impact of the Illegal Migration Act (2023) and the Nationality and Borders Act (2022) to ensure they do not unintentionally hinder genuine victims from escaping and getting the support they are entitled to receive, 
  • Second, the public learn to spot and understand the signs of modern slavery and know where and how to report this criminal activity.
Every life counts, and we must act decisively and together to combat the lies, intimidation and violence criminals use to silence victims and convince them they have no other option but to stay in exploitation."
Major Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army

Modern slavery, where people are hidden in plain sight, exploited in sex work or forced to work for little or no pay in homes or businesses, continues to afflict vulnerable people in every corner of the UK and across the globe. The Salvation Army, which provides specialist support to recovering survivors and tirelessly advocates to bring an end to modern slavery, is determined to bring this issue to the forefront. 

Every year, thousands of men and women are referred to The Salvation Army and its partners to receive life-changing support. The organization helps them access medical and legal assistance, offering practical and emotional support as they take steps towards independent living. 

Major Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army, emphasised the need for collective action and heightened awareness. She said: 

“It’s a great privilege for us to support people who have been rescued and help them recover their lives but we’re deeply concerned about the thousands of people we’re not yet able to help. Modern slavery thrives in the shadows. By its very nature this crime is hard to pin down. The criminals at the heart of this hideous trade in human beings constantly change their methods to evade detection. 

“What is clear, especially from listening to the people we are able to help, is that there are thousands more people who cannot break free. Our estimate of seven individuals in captivity for every one rescued serves as a stark reminder of the vast scale of this problem.

“Every life counts, and we must act decisively and together to combat the lies, intimidation and violence criminals use to silence victims and convince them they have no other option but to stay in exploitation. Victims remain trapped because people don’t realise what is happening or report concerns to the authorities when they come across someone in public places like streets and shops who could be living and working in appalling conditions.” 

This new estimate released by The Salvation Army underscores the gravity of the modern slavery crisis where millions worldwide are suffering in silence. This widespread exploitation has a significant economic impact, feeding criminal networks while perpetuating human suffering. 

For this October’s Anti-Slavery Day (18 October) The Salvation Army is encouraging individuals, businesses, and governments to unite in the fight against modern slavery and stand in solidarity with survivors of modern slavery. There are various ways to get involved and show support: 

  • Learn to spot the signs of modern slavery and report to the authorities. If someone is in immediate danger, call 999 or if you suspect that someone is a victim of modern slavery and in need of help call The Salvation Army’s free, confidential referral helpline on 0800 808 3733, available 24/7 
  • Buy, wear and share The Salvation Army’s #WeAreNotForSale temporary tattoos with a barcode image to help start conversations with friends, family and colleagues around people being bought and sold as commodities 
  • Donate to The Salvation Army’s Survivor Support Fund 
  • Volunteer to support survivors of modern slavery through a range of roles The Salvation Army offers 

More information on The Salvation Army’s efforts to combat modern slavery and bring hope of a better future to survivors and how to get involved is found here

black banner with we are not for sale hashtag and barcode

Spot the Signs

We can only end modern slavery if everyone recognises the scale of the problem and takes action together. Get involved in our Anti Slavery Day Campaign and help find survivors.

find out more

*It is estimated that there are 122,000 people in the UK living in modern slavery 1, that is 1.8 individuals per 1000 people. In 2022, a combined total of 14,895 positive reasonable grounds decisions were given by the Immigration Enforcement Competent Authority (IECA) and Single Competent Authority (SCA). 2 Therefore, for every survivor given the opportunity to enter support, there are at least seven people still living in modern slavery.   

 [1] Source: World | The Global Slavery Index (   

[2] NRM (National Referral Mechanism): Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify statistics UK, end of year summary 2022 - GOV.UK (