Modern slavery helpline receives record number of calls in 2023, report finds


Calls made to an anti-slavery helpline have reached a record high, with the number of potential victims in the care sector rising by almost a third.

According to anti-slavery charity Unseen, the number of calls to the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline in 2023 increased by more than 19%, up from 9,779 in 2022 to 11,700 last year.

Labour abuse remained the main form of exploitation up by 11% from 464 cases in 2022 to 516 in 2023.

Potential victims indicated in the care sector went up by 30% from 708 in 2022 to 918.

There was also a 21% increase in potential victims of criminal exploitation to 385 in 2023.

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Justine Carter, director of Unseen and co-author of the report, said: “Modern slavery and exploitation are heinous crimes that have no place in a modern, progressive UK that cares about human rights.

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“It is encouraging that we are continuing to see rising numbers of calls and contacts to the Helpline, indicating that we are succeeding in raising awareness of the issue and mobilising more people to act.”

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Forced surrogacy was reported for the first time last year, with three potential victims indicated.

Following a case in 2022, four cases of organ harvesting were also reported.

The figures are part of the Helpline’s Annual Assessment, which covers potential victims from 106 different countries, up from 99 in 2022.

Nationals of India, Albania, Romania, Vietnam and China were the most commonly reported.

The number of potential victims was 5,876, down 10% on 2022 (6,516), while the number of modern slavery cases raised was 2,185, down 16% on 2022.

Ms Carter added: “We remain concerned that the ever-increasing hostile environment in the UK towards migrants and foreign workers means that fewer people feel able to raise concerns and seek the help and support that they desperately need.

“More needs to be done to encourage victims to come forward and to properly resource efforts to stamp out modern slavery and exploitation for good.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime and we are committed to ensuring that needs-based support is available to victims to help them rebuild their lives, and to working with first responders to ensure victims understand the support and protection available.”

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