NCA: Modern slavery is more prevalent than previously thought
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has issued a statement claiming that modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK is more prevalent than they previously predicted.
Both modern slavery and human trafficking across the UK is much more prevalent than previously predicted, it has been reported.
According to a statement from the National Crime Agency (NCA), there is a growing body of evidence, deriving from an increase in law enforcement activity that indicates the number of victims is much higher than estimated. There is also a threat that the exploitation of vulnerable individuals is continuing to expand.
Up and down the UK, the NCA claims that there are over 300 live policing operations fighting modern slavery. Over a dozen of the highest risk operations targeting organised crime groups are being led by the crime agency.
Modern slavery refers to the offences of human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, including sexual or criminal exploitation.
The NCA also revealed that in addition to this, the number of people being referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) as potential victims of modern slavery or human trafficking is continuing to rise.
Evidence from the NCA included the arrests of three men in the north east of England with suspected links to a Romanian organised crime group. The NCA believe that the group is using the internet to advertise the services of victims trafficked for sexual exploitation, and then making them launder the proceeds through criminally controlled bank accounts.
After infiltrating this criminal group, ten women were safeguarded. However, the group has a wider network across Europe and is suspected to have made €5 million (£4.4 million) in criminal profits.
Elsewhere, the NCA rescued and safeguarded five Slovakian men in an investigation into allegations of forced labour in Bristol. It was revealed that a man and woman were arrested with links to a car washing business. The NCA believes they are part of a wider organised crime group.
Due to an increase in operational activity by the NCA, focusing on labour and sexual exploitation, there were 111 arrests in the UK and 130 victims safeguarded.
Will Kerr, the NCA’s director of vulnerabilities, commented: “Modern slavery has rightly been made a priority across law enforcement, but it is a hidden crime so the onus is on us to seek it out. The more that we look for modern slavery the more we find the evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable.
“The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought. 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 UK has been underestimated.”