Number of suspected modern slavery victims rises more than a third

The number of potential modern slavery victims has risen in the last year  Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

The number of potential modern slavery victims has risen in the last year Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

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The number of potential modern slavery victims identified in Suffolk increased by more than a third last year, according to official figures.

A total of 75 potential victims were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) by police in 2019 – up 36% compared to the 55 referrals made in 2018.

Across the UK, referrals to the NRM framework for identifying and supporting victims went up 52% from 6,986 to 10,627.

Modern slavery encompasses human trafficking and slavery, servitude and forced labour.

‘County lines’ drug gangs are also known to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store drugs and money, using coercion, intimidation, violence and weapons, but only in the last three months of 2019 has the Home Office started to separate criminal exploitation from labour exploitation in its data.

For those exploited as minors, it said, criminal exploitation was driven by an increase in the identification of county lines.

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

Adults must consent to being referred, while minors do not need to give consent before the Home Office decides if they could be a victim and entitled to 45 days of further support.

Nationally, about eight in every 10 referrals are awaiting a ‘conclusive grounds’ decision, compared to 38% in 2018.

The Home Office said the rise in referrals continued an upward trend, thought to be partly a result of increased awareness of modern slavery and the NRM process.

Detective Inspector Steven Corbett said some victims were sadly unaware of being exploited despite being forced to work in unsuitable conditions for little reward, while others were simply intimidated into silence.

He said exploitation existed wherever there is mass labour and even those who did not wish to engage with authorities could be referred to other agencies for help.

“The rise in referrals is predominantly down to the police and other agencies educating staff on how to look for the signs and take positive action,” he added.

“When I joined the police it was all about detecting crime, but just as important now is safeguarding.

“This is a priority for our agency. We recognise it affects the most vulnerable in society and we encourage people to report it.

“Please do something; don’t do nothing.”

To learn more about how to recognise and report modern slavery, click here to visit the Suffolk police website.

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