Modern slavery more prevalent than thought — United Kingdom crime agency

Modern slavery more prevalent than thought — United Kingdom crime agency

Modern slavery more prevalent than thought — United Kingdom crime agency

Britain's National Crime Agency (NCA) revealed on Thursday it is now working on 300 live policing operations targeting modern slavery.

It said previous estimates of 10,000-13,000 victims in the United Kingdom were found to be the "tip of the iceberg". "The more we look for modern slavery the more we find evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable".

"Nobody in law enforcement realised the full scale and extent of this crime", Will Kerr, director of vulnerabilities at the National Crime Agency told a press conference, saying that the agency first dedicated itself to "looking for" the problem back in January.

Kerr said examples included those working at auto washes and in construction, as well as in agriculture and food processing - often receiving very little pay and forced to put up with poor living conditions.

"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 Britain has been underestimated", Kerr stated.

"We know modern slavery and human trafficking a much bigger problem than is being identified, yet we're still stumbling around because we don't have proper data", she told The Independent.

A surge in operational activity focusing on labor and sexual exploitation coordinated by the NCA through May and June, codenamed Operation Aidant, led to 111 arrests in Britain and some 130 people being encountered who may be considered as victims.

Mr Kerr said he had been shocked by what he had seen during this year's intensive efforts to break up gangs, with nearly every major operation triggering even more investigations. And we need these victims to be supported and cared for so that they are no longer vulnerable to traffickers and slave masters.

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Many believe they are escaping poverty, limited opportunities at home, a lack of education, unstable social and political conditions or war. "It is hard to spot because often victims don't even know they are being exploited", Kerr said.

Among the most shocking examples outlined were a 12-year-old Roma girl who had apparently been "effectively sold by her father" into domestic servitude in Britain. "Twelve years old, same age as my youngest son".

"We need to see more convictions and criminals behind bars", Mr Hyland said.

Figures released earlier this year by the NCA showed the number of suspected victims of slavery and human trafficking had more than doubled in three years.

The NCA says the growth in modern slavery is being driven by global gangs recognizing the amount of money they can make by controlling people within a huge range of economic sectors rather than just dealing drugs.

There were 3,805 people reported as potential victims in 2016, an increase from 1,745 in 2013, according to NCA statistics. Detectives said the woman in question was taken to a place of safety and receiving help agencies with expertise in supporting victims of modern slavery offences.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We continue to support the work of the National Crime Agency to leave criminal networks of traffickers and slavers nowhere to hide".

More than a dozen of the highest risk operations targeting organised crime groups are being led by the NCA.

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