The public needs to be more aware of modern slavery, council chiefs warn as figures reveal the ‘hidden crime’ soaring.
New figures have revealed the number of referrals of potential slavery victims made by councils to the National Referral Mechanism - the UK’s framework for referring and supporting victims - has soared from 172 in 2014 to 306 in 2015 – a rise of 78%.
The Government estimates there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. This includes forced labour, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation.
The LGA, in partnership with the fire and rescue services, said the public should look out for tell-tale signs, such as large numbers of people being ferried to and from properties in vans or minibuses early in the morning and returning late at night.
‘Modern day slavery is a rising threat to our communities, and because of its hidden nature, is a major concern,’ said Cllr Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board.
‘Criminal gangs are making large sums of money on the back of others’ misery by forcing people – often by threatening or using physical violence - to work for little or no pay, or to pay off outstanding debts.
‘By contrast those taking advantage of these people are often living luxury lifestyles.’
‘Councils are determined to identify these ruthless profiteers and rescue their victims from lives of servitude – and communities can really play a big part to help,’ he continued.
‘Many people may think modern slavery is a problem which doesn’t affect them, but nowhere is immune because it can happen everywhere. This isn’t someone else’s problem and we all need to be alert to it, wherever we live.’
For more on this topic read our feature, 'Tackling modern slavery with supply chain transparency.'