A Christian advocacy group reiterated its calls for the Government to issue new guidance for public authorities on identifying and helping victims of modern slavery during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The call from Christian Action Research & Education (CARE) comes after the latest statistics revealed that the number of potential modern slavery victims referred to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) rose sharply last year.
In total, 10,627 potential victims were referred to the NRM in 2019, a 52 per cent increase from 2018 and the first time since records began that the total number is over 10,000.
“To see such a sharp rise in the overall number of referrals to the NRM is incredibly disturbing,” Nola Leach, CARE’s chief executive, told The Catholic Universe. “While some of this can be attributed to increased police focus on modern slavery and forces becoming better at identifying potential victims, such a big jump in referrals is still shocking.
“We must never forget that behind these statistics are real people, whose lives have been cruelly ruined by those who would treat them as mere commodities,” she continued.
“With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting all of our lives, we again today call on the Government to issue clear guidance for public authorities so they can continue this vital work of identifying and supporting victims.
“It is crucial that we make sure the support for victims remains in place, because without the right support, they cannot hope to rebuild their shattered lives,” Ms Leach added.
The latest NRM statistics also show that two-thirds of victims said their exploitation took place in the UK only, while 26 per cent said it was exploitation that took place overseas only.
More than 40 per cent of referrals were for victims who claimed they had been exploited as children, with labour exploitation being the most common form of exploitation.
The three most common nationalities referred to the NRM were from the UK, Albania and Vietnam.
CARE’s latest call for the Government to issue new guidance comes after the group previously issued a statement marking the fifth anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act last month.
Picture: File photo dated 17/5/2009 of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, central London. (Tim Ireland/PA).