The Salvation Army: Labour exploitation in England and Wales on the rise

More than 600 people required support from The Salvation Army for labour exploitation in 2016, as a new report from the organisation reveals that there has been a more than 300% increase in modern slavery victim referrals over the last six years.

The new report covers data gathered during the sixth year of The Salvation Army’s Government contract, whereby it delivers specialist support to adult victims of modern slavery identified across England and Wales.

More than 1,500 people were referred to the organisation between July 2016 and June 2017. A total of 48% of victims were trafficked for sexual exploitation, while 39% were referred over labour exploitation.

A total of 5,868 people have been supported by the Salvation Army between 2011 – the first year of the Government contract – and 2017. However, the 1,554 people supported this year represents a 300% increase on 2011.

The number of labour exploitation cases is also increasing. The 606 people referred for labour issues is an increase of 19 from the year before and up from 179 cases six years ago.

The Salvation Army claim that the numbers represent a growth in crime but “also the identification process”. There is proof of this when examining the number of source countries of the victims, which has more than doubled to 95 since 2011.

In response to the better identification process, The Salvation Army was able to add Nigeria to the seven anti-human trafficking projects, funded from the UK to benefit developing countries where exposure to slavery is high.

The Salvation Army’s director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery, Anne Read, said: “The Salvation Army has made a global commitment to fighting modern slavery and human trafficking and we are delighted in the UK to have made a positive contribution to this through our new projects in Nigeria, as well as the Philippines.

“We believe the model of community-led re-integration and support is effective, efficient and relatively easily replicated – the kind of programme we need to tackle such large-scale global crime and with potential to impact positively on the situation in the UK. The Salvation Army is in this fight for as long as it takes for the war to be won.”

More than 40% of the referred victims were based in London, while a total of 44 British workers were supported through the scheme.

Business implications

The report highlights the rise in awareness of human rights abuses, but also serves to showcase that the issue is still complex to navigate. A report from the Ethical Trading Initiative noted that most companies understand the reputational risk of finding modern slavery in the supply chain, but most are reportedly struggling to meet the demands of the Modern Slavery Act.

The Sustainability Supply Chain School found that more than half of construction businesses would not know what action to take if modern slavery was encountered in their supply chain.

The inaugural Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) report focuses on 98 publicly traded firms from three industries – agricultural products, apparel and extractives – and found that the large majority of businesses are in danger of falling “overwhelmingly behind” on human rights issues.

Fashion retailers, in particular, have been stung by human rights abuses in supply chains. Last year, Syrian refugee children were found making clothes for a number of British fashion outlets, highlighting the need for more robust procedures to map supply chains.

Matt Mace

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