Steep rise in modern day slaves forced into crime during pandemic

published on 18 Oct 2021

The number of people rescued from modern slavery after being forced to commit crimes rose by more than half (62%) in 12 months, according to a new report released by The Salvation Army on Anti-Slavery Day.

Over the last ten years, The Salvation Army and its partners have helped more than 15,000 adult survivors through the Government’s Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract. Specialist support workers provide safe places to stay and help to get medical care, counselling and legal advice.

From July 2020 to June 2021, a total of 2662 survivors of modern slavery in England and Wales were referred to The Salvation Army for help. Of these, 470 had been forced to commit crimes such as growing or dealing drugs, begging, and shoplifting.

Dan (not his real name) was an 18-year-old warehouse apprentice when the new head of security at his work forced him to deal drugs. He says: “I didn’t want anything to do with it, but I was told I would lose my job if I didn’t. When I couldn’t pay him back for the drugs, he went to my parents’ house and smashed it up. He also took all my wages and used my identity in fraud. He said he’d shoot me if I did a runner without paying, but I was too scared to go to the police because I didn’t know there was help for me. He beat me up so badly that I’ve lost most of the teeth at the back of my mouth, had broken ribs and need an operation for a damaged knee.

“I was finally rescued when the police raided my work after a tipoff. Then someone from The Salvation Army drove me to a safehouse hundreds of miles away. I stayed there for months because it was too dangerous to go home, but they made me feel that things were going to be OK. They treated me with respect and built up my confidence. With their help, I’ve found a job and I’m studying for a degree.”

Forced labour, where people are made to work in places like farms, factories, building sites and restaurants for little or no pay remains the most common way survivors were exploited, with 1,030 referred to The Salvation Army this year. There were also 647 survivors of sexual exploitation and 187 who had been domestic slaves.

Major Kathy Betteridge, The Salvation Army’s Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery said: “Behind these statistics are real people who have had their freedom stolen and been used and abused as mere commodities. They come to us fearful and traumatised with nowhere else to turn for help.

“The perpetrators often target the most vulnerable in our society: those in poverty, people who are homeless, those with mental health problems and those with addictions. And, we fear that the economic fallout from the pandemic will put  even more people at risk of falling prey to modern slavery.

“Despite the number of people that have been rescued this year, many more across the country are still trapped in slavery unable to escape. We can all help fight modern slavery by raising the alarm if we are worried that something is wrong.”

The Salvation Army provides additional help through its trained volunteers who give support to those people who have been rescued including driving them to safety and providing mentoring support.  More financial help is available through donations made to The Salvation Army’s Survivor Support Fund for items such as clothes, furniture and baby equipment or to access training and employment to help survivors become more resilient as they rebuild their lives.

Of the total number of survivors supported by The Salvation Army and its partner organisations, in the last year, 1616 (61%) were men and 1046 (39%) women. Nearly half (1317) were aged 26 to 39, and almost a fifth (767) were 18 to 25.

The survivors were of 96 different nationalities. The largest number were 523 Albanians, followed by 341 British. There were also 202 Sudanese, an 87% increase on the previous year that The Salvation Army believes is a result of war, oppression and poverty in Sudan.

Anyone who is a victim of modern slavery or is  concerned about someone else can contact The Salvation Army’s confidential 24/7 referral advice line on 0800 808 3733.

To read the full Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery 2021 report and for more information on how The Salvation Army supports survivors, visit our website.

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