Modern Slavery Act increases identification of slavery victims

LexisNexis Legal & Professional, Business Insight Solutions, 16 August 2016

The number of people identified as victims of modern slavery in England and Wales has increased fivefold since 2012, according to a new report issued by the Salvation Army: 'Bulletin on The Salvation Army's Adult Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Victim Care & Coordination Contract'.  The report suggests the increase may be due to improvements in victim identification, not a growth in those affected. This report reminds corporations of the risk of doing business with a third-parties involved in modern slavery and human trafficking. report said the increase may be due to improvements in victim identification.

From April 2015 to March 2016 the Salvation Army supported 1,805 people as part of its government contract to support victims of forced labour.  The new figures show a significant increase in the number of adults identified as victims of forced labour in England and Wales.

The Salvation Army is the official government representative supporting adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales. 

Who were the victims?

Of the people supported by the Salvation Army Victim Care Contract, 62% were female and 38% were male, as well as six transgender people.  44% had been subjected to sexual exploitation, 42% had been exploited for labour and an additional 13% were victims of domestic servitude. 

The largest proportion of victims were Albanian, with a significant number also trafficked from Poland, Nigeria and Vietnam.  A substantial number of victims were British citizens who have been trafficked within the UK.

The majority – 29% – of referrals came from London, with a further 16% from the South East, 16% from the West Midlands, 12% from the North West, 9% from the North East and 5% from Wales. 

A report issued by the Welsh Government has identified that the number of modern slavery victims identified in the country has quadrupled in three years.  In 2015, 134 referrals of potential victims of slavery were reported in Wales, a 91.4% increase from 2014.  The government report said the increase may be due to improvements in victim identification.

More effective measures for tackling slavery

Sarah Newton, minister for safeguarding, vulnerability and countering extremism, said: "Our policy is designed to encourage more victims to come forward and ask for help.  We welcome increases in the number of referrals as a sign that our efforts to shine a light on modern slavery are working."

The Home Office has stated that the rise in referrals indicates efforts to highlight modern slavery are becoming more effective.  

The report coincides with the coming into force of new measures to enable law enforcement to tackle modern slavery at sea more effectively.  From 2013 to 2014, the NCA identified 37 potential victims of modern slavery in the maritime industry.  The measures – part of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 – mean police forces, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Border Force agents have the power to board and search vessels, seize evidence and arrest offenders, if they suspect the vessel is linked to modern slavery.

The Government has also recently announced the creation of a new taskforce that will co-ordinate action between various government departments.  The task force will be supported by £33.5 million in official development assistance funding and an inspection of the police force to assess the effectiveness of its response to modern slavery.

Awareness for companies

The Salvation Army report demonstrates that the new Modern Slavery Act – the most forward-thinking anti-slavery legislation in the world – is already having a positive effect on the issue of forced labour in the UK by identifying increasing numbers of victims.  The findings,  should alert companies of the instances of modern slavery close to home.

The Modern Slavery legislation aims to make large businesses accountable for anti-slavery activities, particularly those covering the supply chain.  Kevin Hyland, the UK independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, stated that the new legislation means "ignorance is no longer an excuse", and companies need to be aware of the duties the Modern Slavery Act places on them to help curb the problem.

The UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires organisations to produce an annual slavery and human trafficking statement, detailing the steps they have taken to mitigate these risks in their business and supply chains.

If you carry out any part of your business in the UK and turnover more than £36M globally, the requirement applies to you.