Hundreds of potential modern slavery victims identified in Suffolk over last three years

Modern slavery encompasses criminal and sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude P

Modern slavery encompasses criminal and sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A record number of potential victims of forced labour or exploitation were identified in Suffolk last year, according to latest figures.

A total of 83 potential victims were identified to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) either by the police (66 potential victims) or the county council (17).

Two thirds were under-18s, according to Home Office statistics on the UK’s framework for identifying and supporting victims.

In 2019, the total number of referrals was 80 (75 by police and five by the county council), taking the overall total over the last three years to 224.

Across the UK, referrals to the NRM framework plateaued at 10,613 – thought to be the result of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated restrictions.

Modern slavery encompasses human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced labour, and includes criminal exploitation associated with county lines drug dealing.

People from the UK, Albania and Vietnam were the most likely to be referred to the NRM last year.

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Adults with a positive ‘conclusive grounds’ decision are entitled to at least a further 45 days of support to allow them to move on from NRM support, while those with a negative decision receive nine days of support.

A national rise in referrals, up until last year, continued an upward trend and was thought to be partly a result of increased awareness of modern slavery and the NRM process.

Detective Superintendent David Giles said the force had been closely monitoring referrals since the pandemic struck and had observed the situation in Suffolk reflect the national picture, adding: “We liaise closely with local authority housing and welfare partners and schools to share information and intelligence on modern slavery, and we recognise the important role that partnership working and the public play in recognising the signs and reporting concerns to us.

"Our work to disrupt organised criminals and crime groups is ongoing, and we also work closely with law enforcement colleagues from other countries and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.”

If you suspect someone is being trafficked, or to get help and seek advice, contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

More information can be found at online.