THE number of British citizens identified as victims of modern slavery has increased by 72 per cent in a year, figures show.
The number of UK nationals recorded as being potential victims of trafficking increased from 1,246 in 2017-18 to 2,143 in 2018-19, reported the Independent on Monday (14).
Campaigners believe that the rise could be due to victims who have been exploited through “county lines” drug gangs.
The Salvation Army, which provides housing and support to victims of modern slavery, said it has seen an increase of 58 per cent in British nationals using their service in the last one year.
Jakub Sobik, of Anti-Slavery International, told the Independent: “These numbers show that nationality of people targeted to be exploited doesn’t matter, all it takes is finding vulnerable people and a way to trap and exploit them.
“The county lines practice is particularly disturbing. Children are attracted by gifts and promises of flashy life, but soon get trapped in the drug crime and can face extreme violence if they want to leave.”
A Home Office spokesperson told The Sun Online: “Modern slavery and human trafficking are barbaric crimes and we remain committed to stamping it out and supporting victims.
“More potential victims are being identified and protected due to greater awareness and improved understanding of modern slavery.”
“Our recent significant reforms to the National Referral Mechanism, such as the introduction of new Single Competent Authority and the launch of a digital referral form, ensure we get victims into the support they need more quickly”.
Meanwhile, anti-slavery charity Unseen has launched a social media campaign to raise awareness and support UK’s hidden victims of slavery.
The campaign urges people to change their profile pictures to support victims of modern slavery in the UK, and it coincides with Anti-Slavery Day, which falls on October 18.