A significant number of Bangladeshi nationals have been recorded as potential victims of modern day slavery in Britain, according to official UK government statistics released for the year 2017.
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which records potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, found that the number of at-risk Bangladeshis increased from 54 in 2016 to 57 last year.
The data released by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) on Monday revealed that of the total figure, 19 were victims of domestic servitude, 26 of labour exploitation, seven of sexual exploitation, and five fell under the category of “unknown exploitation”. Bangladesh was ranked as the 17th most vulnerable nationality in a list topped by the UK with 819 victims in 2017, followed by Albania (777) and Vietnam (739).
“It is our assessment that the increase we are seeing here is driven by an increased awareness and greater reporting of modern slavery and that is to be welcomed,” said NCA Director Will Kerr.
“However, it also adds further evidence to our view that the figures almost certainly represent an underestimate of the true scale of slavery and trafficking in the UK,” he added.
Overall, the data showed that 5,145 potential victims were submitted to the NRM last year, a 35% increase on 2016, and the most common exploitation type recorded was labour exploitation.
Under the NRM process, potential victims of modern slavery are referred by “first responders” to “competent authorities” such as the NCA Human Trafficking Unit and the UK Home Office, who then consider if the individual is a victim of modern slavery. First responders include a series of local public bodies and NGOs.
As part of UK government reforms introduced in October 2017, the length of time for which confirmed victims have access to so-called “move-on” support, such as ongoing accommodation, counselling, expert advice and advocacy, was extended from 14 days to 45 days. This is in addition to the minimum 45 days of support victims already receive before a final decision on their status is reached, increasing the total period to at least 90 days.
UK government-funded “places of safety” have also been created for adult victims leaving immediate situations of exploitation.
British Prime Minister Theresa May launched the Modern Slavery Task Force in 2016, for coordinated action by various agencies to bring perpetrators of modern slavery to court under the country’s Modern Slavery Act.
“We owe it to the innocent men, women and children who are being tricked into a life of hard labour and abuse to rid our world of this evil,” she said.
Once a referral on modern slavery is made, the “competent authority” then assesses the individual cases to arrive at a decision on the kind of support to be provided to the victim. However, not all the individuals referred to the NRM would go on to be assessed as modern day slaves.