Modern Slavery is a hidden crime
The hidden nature of Modern Slavery means that existing data on the crime is incomplete, and it is difficult to estimate the true number of victims in the UK. We know that even when discovered, victims can be wary to identify themselves as having been trafficked due to the coercion placed on them by their traffickers.
In 2017 the Home Office suggested that there may be at least 13,000 people living in Modern Slavery, however National Crime Agency officials have since asserted that it is far more likely to be in the tens of thousands.
Since the Modern Slavery Act came into force in 2015, the number of victims identified has grown year on year as a greater focus is given to uncovering incidence of Modern Slavery. This growth suggests that those cases we are aware of are just the tip of the iceberg, and that the true scale of the problem is far larger.
National Referral Mechanism data
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) data from the Home Office provides a snapshot into how many victims there may be in the UK. These figures represent not only just those who have been identified and removed from a situation of trafficking, but also only the number of this group who decide to enter into the National Referral Mechanism. Many victims will decide not to enter into the NRM for a variety of reasons.
In 2021, there were 12,727 referrals into the NRM compared to 3,804 in 2016.
Of these, 77% identified as male and 23% as female.
50% were identified as adults at the time of exploitation, 43% as minors and 7% their age was unknown.
For a more detailed evaluation of NRM data, you can visit the Government website.
Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline