ArticleUK hits record high in modern slavery referrals

The United Kingdom has witnessed an alarming rise in modern slavery cases, as recent statistics reveal a record number of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2023. With 17,004 potential victims, surpassing the previous year’s count, the urgency to address this human rights crisis has never been greater.

The breakdown of these figures reveals a grim reality:

  • A historic high in referrals for women (4,088) and children (7,432), highlighting their heightened vulnerability.
  • The majority of the victims are UK nationals (4,299), followed by Albanian and Vietnamese nationals, indicating that modern slavery transcends borders and nationalities.

Government agencies, particularly UK Visas and Immigration, were the primary source of referrals, emphasising their key role in identifying and supporting victims.

The path to recovery

Recovery for victims is fraught with challenges. The average waiting time for an initial decision has increased significantly, now at 23 days, up from six. The rise is attributed to more stringent guidelines requiring objective factors for decision-making.

2023 also marked the highest annual number of conclusive grounds decisions (9,825), thanks to increased recruitment and efficiency efforts. However, the growing number of victims opting not to enter the system signals deeper issues, potentially exacerbated by recent immigration laws that deter survivors from seeking help.

The Government’s stance

The Home Office affirms its commitment to combating all forms of modern slavery, including safeguarding individuals and children in the UK. However, their approach also includes removing protections for those with criminal backgrounds or false claims, aiming to protect the system from misuse. This strategy has sparked concerns among experts about the potential negative impacts on survivors’ willingness to seek help or participate in criminal prosecutions.

The spike in modern slavery referrals in the UK illustrates the ongoing battle against human trafficking and forced labour. The rising figures, particularly among women and children, demand immediate and effective action from the government and support organisations. Collaborative efforts are vital to provide timely and comprehensive assistance to survivors, protect the integrity of the system, and ultimately, break the chains of modern slavery.

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