“Too few victims of slavery in UK identified, warns commissioner”

Britain’s first anti-slavery commissioner has warned that too few victims are being identified while support for those who are is “morally unacceptable”.

Kevin Hyland said a trade in “human misery” was taking place across Britain on a “shameful scale” and that too few perpetrators are being caught.

Publishing his first strategic plan for tackling modern slavery, the former Metropolitan police detective said improvements were needed in identifying and supporting victims.

“Far too many modern slavery victims in the UK are not receiving an appropriate response,” he said. “Morally, this is unacceptable.”

Hyland was appointed to the role in November to spearhead the government’s fight against modern slavery. He has issued a number of warnings about the scale of the problem. In May he spoke of “Oliver Twist scenarios” taking place on Britain’s streets as children are tasked with pickpocketing, shoplifting and begging.

His latest assessment concludes that modern slavery exists in a “wide variety of brutal forms”, including forced labour, child slavery, forced marriage and human trafficking. He said it was crucial that efforts to identify potential victims are improved.

Home Office estimates suggest there are up to 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery. However, last year only 2,340 people were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a framework established to identify victims and ensure they receive appropriate support.

“Whilst there has been a consistent and sustained increase in the number of potential victims identified since the introduction of the NRM in 2009, significant numbers of victims are not being identified and therefore remain unprotected and in situations of abuse and exploitation,” Hyland’s report said.

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