Figures were released today by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) which showed that Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking (MSHT) is far more prevalent in the UK than previously anticipated.
An increase in law activity in this area has revealed a growing body of evidence which shows that the number of MSHT victims is much higher than estimates originally suggested. The NCA suggests that there are cases of MSHT in “every large town and city in the country” and, at present, they are currently assisting with over 300 live policing operations within the UK.
The operations include cases of victims being trafficked, held in forced labour, forced into prostitution or criminally exploited. There are also cases of victims (sometimes as young as 12-years-old) being sold to families in the UK.
The above figures come to light three months after London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, revealed that a modern slavery steering group has been established in London. The group are scheduled to meet for the first time this summer in order to help combat the problem.
Operation Aidant: Combating Slavery and Human Trafficking
The NCA coordinated an operation titled ‘Operation Aidant’ during the months of May and June this year. In these two months alone, 111 suspects were arrested and 130 people were treated as MSHT victims.
According to the NCA, one of Operation Aidant’s cases resulted in the arrest of three men with suspected links to Romanian organised crime. Ten women were safeguarded after they were sexually exploited and their “services” were advertised on the internet. The suspects then laundered their profits through criminally controlled bank accounts across Europe.
Outside the UK, Operation Aidant has lead the NCA to mainland Europe where an additional 40 suspects were arrested and, due to intelligence findings, a further 25 investigations have been launched.
The NCA’s Director of Vulnerabilities, Will Kerr, said:
“Modern slavery has rightly been made a priority across law enforcement, but it is a hidden crime so the onus is on us to seek it out. The more that we look for modern slavery the more we find the evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable.
The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought. The intelligence we are gaining is showing that there are likely to be far more victims out there, and the numbers of victims in the UK has been underestimated.
In response, the NCA begins a new campaign focused on sexual and labour exploitation, explaining how the public can help stop it. Over the next six months, the campaign will highlight the signs of modern slavery which people may encounter in their everyday lives, and encourage them to report it.
This is a crime which affects all types of communities across every part of the United Kingdom. It is difficult to spot because often victims don’t even know they are being exploited. Nevertheless we need those communities to be our eyes and ears.
There will be people living and working where victims come into contact with everyone else’s so-called normal lives. They may see something they feel is not quite right. That might be someone seeming afraid, vulnerable or being controlled, moved around or forced to work against their will. If they do, we need the public to speak to us.”
If you have any suspicions in relation to Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, please call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.