Dramatic increase in UK slavery survivors being supported by The Salvation Army

Car washes are one area where modern slavery thrives.Pixabay

Record numbers of UK nationals have been helped by The Salvation Army after escaping from modern formsof slavery. 

New figures show a 79% increase in British slavery survivors being helped by the Church's specialist support services, despite a fall in referrals during lockdown. 

Of the 243 Britons helped last year, 111 were coerced into criminal exploitation like begging and drug dealing, 70 were the victims of forced labour, and 46 were sexually exploited. 

Over a third (40%) were between the ages of 18 and 25. 

The Salvation Army's network of safe houses received a total of 2,592 people from a number of countries between July 2019 and June 2020, a 15% rise on the previous year. 

Overall, forced labour in industries like factories and farming accounted for the biggest share of referrals (42%).

Over the last seven years, the largest proportion of victims supported by The Salvation Army has come from Albania. 

A record 610 Albanians were supported last year, with a dramatic spike in the number of Albanian men being exploited in forced labour and crime, up from 67 to 176 in 2019. Last year, The Salvation Army helped 434 Albanian women, most of whom were the victims of sexual exploitation. 

Major Kathy Betteridge, The Salvation Army's Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said many more people could become victims as a result of the pandemic. 

"As we face the biggest economic downturn in recent years, we anticipate the fallout from the pandemic will leave many more people in poverty and at risk of exploitation," she said.

"The reduction in the number of referrals to The Salvation Army during the first three months of lockdown greatly concerns us.

"This suggests people who might have been identified have become even more hidden. We believe many are still in the living nightmare of slavery without knowing how to get help.

"Further lockdown restrictions mean we are spending more time at home and there are fewer physical interactions for suspicions to be raised." 

She called on members of the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. 

"When the public do leave their homes, we need them to know how to spot the signs of slavery, how to report it and spread awareness," she said. 

She added: "We need the public to help find others still hidden in slavery so they too can get the help they need and deserve."

To raise funds for its modern slavery support services, The Salvation Army has launched special edition face masks with a barcode design to highlight the way in which slavery treats people as commodities. They can be bought for £5.99 via the organisation's online shop: http://www.sps-shop.com/ 

If you believe you are a victim of modern slavery or to report suspicious activity, call The Salvation Army's confidential 24/7 referral helpline on 0800 808 3733.