Child Slavery Triples In London In Just Two Years

It isn't clear if the problem is getting worse or if the rise is due to better policing.

By Ria and Charity, both 15 · September 23, 2019

389 children were identified as modern slavery victims in London last year. 37 of them were in Croydon, the highest number of any individual borough.

31 adults were also identified as modern slaves, 8 of them also in Croydon.

Is modern slavery on the rise?

The number of child modern slavery victims in London has risen by 352% since 2016, up from 89 victims in 2016. In 2017, there were 231 child victims.

Adult modern slavery has also increased in London, from 14 in 2016, to 31 in 2018, a rise of 121%.

Pic: Pexels / lalesh alderwish

Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Minister Victoria Atkins told The Independent in May: “There has been a real sea change in the police response to modern slavery over the last two years with greater awareness and many more operations across the country. There is real sense now that modern slavery and exploitation is a priority for policing and that there’s a willingness to lift the stone and commit to tackling this crime. The Police Transformation Programme has been a cornerstone of this change.

“The programme has already helped to deliver improvements not just in policing and law enforcement, but across the system more broadly. This is a testament to the way the activities within the programme were designed to support interventions that would make the biggest difference.”

Are the rising figures because better policing is making a difference?

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Brewer, Modern Slavery & Kidnap Unit (MSKU) at the Metropolitan Police said, “The Metropolitan Police Service received a record number of modern slavery referrals during 2016/17. There are a number of reasons for this, including clearer pathways for victims to seek help and protection from the UK authorities and officers better recognising potential indicators of modern slavery in people they come into contact with.”

Brewer also said that “The public is more aware of modern slavery and exploitation within their communities and are taking action to report their concerns,” adding that “competent authorities (NCA and UK Visa and Immigration) (are) ensuring all referrals are forwarded to Police whether there are investigative leads or not.”

“The MPS has also seen a significant increase in referrals where the potential victim alleges a crime of modern slavery outside of the UK with approximately 60% of all cases falling into this category. Where the MPS are notified of such a case they will assist law enforcement colleagues from around the world to take action by sharing intelligence,” said Brewer.

In regards to why there is a higher number of modern slaves in Croydon, Brewer said “There is a large Immigration Centre there and it is often the first time victims of modern slavery have a chance to make a report.”

Why did students cover this story?

Ria, 15, and Charity, 15, from London, said: “This story is important to us because so many people are not heard and are forced to work and live in terrible conditions. We have also learnt how important it is to be precise with factual claims.”