U.K. Modern Slavery Numbers May Be 10 Times Higher Than Estimate

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More than 100,000 people may be working in slavery-type conditions in the U.K., about 10 times more than previous official estimates, and the global pandemic is set to make it worse, according to the Centre for Social Justice.

Rising levels of poverty and a lack of opportunities will leave millions of people vulnerable and may lead to an increase in human trafficking and modern slavery, the think tank said in a report on Monday. The CSJ studies and makes policy recommendations to combat poverty.

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News on Monday that modern slavery is in “every town and city in Britain.” Allegations of modern slavery and exploitation in the clothing industry in Leicester are being assessed by The National Crime Agency, which has visited some premises in the city in relation to the claims.

Those affected by modern day slavery often spend months or years waiting for a decision on whether they’re entitled to government-funded support, a process known as the National Referral Mechanism, leaving them vulnerable to being re-trafficked, the CSJ report said.

“It is a slow and complex bureaucratic system and leaves far too many victims unable to get on with their lives because of the delays in the decision-making process,” the report said. “The NRM must be completely overhauled to be person-driven and not a tick-box exercise.”

The government suggested in 2017 that the economic impact of slavery may be as much as 4.3 billion pounds ($5.4 billion), though this was in turn based on an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 victims in 2013. In many local authorities, dealing with trafficking often relies on personal leadership rather than it being “core business,” the report said.

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