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Safeguarding Refugees

18th May 2023 | Modern slavery

The Clewer Initiative

High numbers of people have been displaced due to the war in Ukraine. Many have sought refuge in the UK. They join thousands of other people seeking international protection.


A refugee is a person who 'owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.'

An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognised as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim.

A vital part of being recognised as a refugee is Refugee Status Determination (RSD), a legal process that governments or UNHCR use to determine whether a person seeking international protection is considered a refugee under international, national or regional law.

The scale of the issue

As of November 2022, there were 231,597 refugees, 127,421 pending asylum cases and 5,483 stateless persons in the UK.

According to the Migration Observatory, in 2021, the top five most common countries of nationality of people who applied for asylum in the UK were Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Albania and Syria.

From 1 January 2010 to 31 December 2021, around 31,101 refugees were resettled in the UK under its six different resettlement schemes. Around three-quarters (76%) were citizens of Middle Eastern countries, and 17% were citizens of sub-Saharan African countries. Most were nationals of Syria: 68%.

At risk

Unfortunately, refugees have increased vulnerability to exploitation, including modern slavery and human trafficking. It is essential that those providing support to refugees are aware of the risks. Here are some simple things you can do to grow in understanding of the risks, respond effectively and raise awareness:

Educate yourself

  • Learn more about modern slavery by watching this video.
  • There is a range of information about modern slavery and human trafficking on The Clewer Initiative website
  • Attend an online seminar or training course about modern slavery
  • You can access eLearning about modern slavery and human trafficking in the resources section of the Church of England training portal. You will need to create a log in if you don’t have one.
  • You can learn more about the experience of victims and survivors by watching this video.

Raise awareness

  • Circulate this information to others
  • Download and display posters to raise awareness of the signs of modern slavery and how to get help.

Provide information to those who may be vulnerable

  • Read this blog post about supporting Ukrainian refugees on The Clewer Initiative website
  • Access resources about workers’ rights for Ukrainian speakers here.
  • Circulate our Ukrainian refugee toolkit

Get advice

  • Refer any concerns about Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking through your safeguarding lead. You can also get advice from the Modern Slavery Helpline. They provide services and support in 200 languages.
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Ukrainian Refugee Toolkit

A new resource, in English and Ukrainian, to help Ukrainian refugees learn more about modern slavery and the risk of being drawn into exploitation. Available in PDF or PowerPoint.

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