THE number of British victims of modern slavery have skyrocketed by 72 per cent in a year, new figures show.
Campaigners fear the rise could be down to the growing number of victims who have been exploited through ‘county lines’ drugs gangs.
The number of UK nationals who have been identified as potential victims of trafficking have gone up from 1,246 in 2017-18 to 2,143 in 2018-19.
Campaigners say the shocking rise could pinpointed the increase in victims of the county lines drug activity, which is the sinister drug running technique that gangs are using to sell drugs in other towns by exploiting kids and vulnerable adults.
The dealing technique uses young people or vulnerable adults to carry and sell drugs across county boundaries using dedicated mobile phone hotlines.
The advantage to dealers is they can sell drugs outside the area they live in – often impoverished and rural towns – and therefore reduce the risk of getting caught.
Other forms of exploitation include on rural farms, car washes and nail bars.
HELP STAMP OUT SLAVERY
Want to help? Here are some of the possible warning signs to look for, according to the Modern Slavery Helpline:
- Domestic slaves may be held in their employer’s home and forced to carry out tasks such as childcare, cooking and cleaning
- They may not be allowed to leave the house on their own, or they may be monitored
- The person may work long working hours
- They may not have access to their own belongings, such as a mobile phone or their own ID
- The employer may be abusive, both physically and verbally
- The person may not interact often with the family they are employed by
- A domestic slave may be deprived of their own personal living space, food, water or medical care
- They may wear poorer quality clothing compared to other family members
Suspicious? You can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, or fill in an online report at: www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/report
The Salvation Army, a charity that provided safe housing and support to modern slavery victims, said it has seen a 58 per cent increase in British nationals using their service within the past year.
The charity, which is contracted by the Home Office, said the number of UK victims who have been enslaved through labour exploitation, including forced criminality, increased by 63 per cent between July 2018 and July 2019.
It added it was the most common type of exploitation as it accounted for 48 per cent of cases.
The charity Unseen has also shared research that fuels concerns that rough sleepers are being coerced into exploitation.
It reported that seven per cent of all cases reported to its helpline involve a homeless victim.
Jakub Sobik, of Anti-Slavery International said told The Independent: “These numbers show that nationality of people targeted to be exploited doesn’t matter, all it takes is finding vulnerable people and a way to trap and exploit them.
He said the services that are meant to “spot the signs early”, such as teachers, doctors and social workers, were “very underfunded” and it needs to be reversed.
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Emily Kenway, a senior advisor at Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), said it was not a shock that exploitation was “rife and rising”, citing the UK’s “woeful failure” to fund labour inspection adequately.
She added the increased numbers show police are recognising how county lines drug activity may include victims of modern slavery, but “more must be done to prevent exploitation from occurring in the first place”.
The Sun Online has contacted the Home Office for comment.
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