2022 could be worst year for modern slavery – 8,000 victims in first 6 months

Close to 8,000 people are said to have been victims of modern slavery in the UK in the first six months of 2022, according to a leading independent body.

Such slavery includes a range of exploitative practices, from forced, compulsory, and child labour, to debt bondage and human trafficking.

Criminal practice affects more than 40 million people worldwide – 24.9 million of which are said to be exploited through forced labour, with 16 million in global supply chains.

And numbers indicate that 2022 could become the worst year so far for modern slavery in the UK – with crooks who profit from this making approximately £128 billion annually as a result.

In response, on Anti-Slavery Day, BSI (The British Standards Institution) have announced the launch of its world’s first national standard to help organizations across the UK and abroad to eradicate modern slavery.

With companies facing increased scrutiny over supply chain issues regarding social responsibility, organizational impact, and Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) reporting, the modern slavery standard provides guidance for businesses to identify risks, and potential victims, while offering advice on how to combat the issue.

Susan Taylor Martin, CEO of BSI, said: “Global disruptions such as COVID-19 and the return of war in Europe have changed the game and created greater risks of modern slavery than were faced in 2015, when the Modern Slavery Act was enacted.

“Far more can and must be done to bridge the gap between policy and practice.

“BSI is committed to helping organizations understand what they can do in practical terms to eliminate this corrupt, criminal behaviour which continues to plague the global economy.”

Rights and duties concerning modern slavery already exist in UK legislation, notably through the Modern Slavery Act 2015, as well as through international UN and ILO frameworks.

However, in the UK the number of potential victims of modern slavery referred to in the National Referral Mechanism rose from 2,340 in 2014, to more than 12,700 in 2021.

And quarter-on-quarter referral numbers continued to increase into 2022, with 3,777 in Q1 2022, and 4,171 in Q2 2022.

Such trends indicate 2022 could become the worst year so far for modern slavery referrals in the UK.

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While existing legislation provides duties for organizations with an annual turnover of £36 million or more to report on modern slavery, the new standard is applicable to organizations of any size or type – which is critical given that SMEs make up 99% of businesses, and three-fifths of employment in the UK.

A survivor of modern slavery, who can only be referred to as Mr. K for legal reasons, helped create the standard, and said: “To contribute to such an important standard and knowing my experience will help so many people affected by modern slavery in the future, is both empowering and an integral part of my own personal recovery.

“Also, being part of Survivor Alliance has been a lifeline for me, and I hope this important piece of work produced is embraced by all, so we can create a greater awareness of modern slavery and help put an end to it once and for all.”

The national standard provides guidance on managing the risk of modern slavery through prevention, identification, response, remediation, mitigation, and reporting, to encourage organizations to close this gap and meaningfully address the problem.

Scott Steedman, Director-General Standards at BSI, added: “Too many organizations, large and small, do not understand the prevalence and locations of modern slavery in their supply chains, and they also lack knowledge on how to protect themselves from its risks.

“With this new National Standard, BSI is providing much-needed guidance to help organizations act decisively to understand, identify risks, and combat modern slavery.”

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