The modern slavery landscape

21st March 2023 | From our team

The Clewer Initiative

The Home Office has recently issued its National Referral Mechanism end of year statistics for 2022.

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support.

The annual data gives us a snapshot into the current modern slavery landscape and helps us understand which way the trends are moving in.

This is our summary:

Overall trends

  • The number of potential victims referred to the Home Office in 2022 increased by 33% compared to the preceding year
  • This was the highest annual number since the NRM began in 2009 but this is only the tip of the iceberg as most victims never come forward for support
  • Of the 16,938 potential victims referred in 2022, 78% were male and 21% were female

Forms of slavery

  • The most common form of exploitation amongst all potential victims was labour exploitation, which accounted for 30% of all referrals
  • For adult potential victims, labour exploitation was most commonly reported (39%), whereas child potential victims were most often referred for criminal exploitation e.g. county lines (43%)

County lines

  • In 2021 and 2022, cases flagged as county lines remained at a high level, averaging more than 550 referrals a quarter in 2022. However, in 2022 they rose at a lower rate compared to the previous year
  • In 2022, 2,281 county lines referrals were flagged, accounting for 13% of all referrals received. The majority (75%) of these referrals were for male children


  • Albanian nationals overtook UK nationals as the most commonly referred nationality in 2022, with Eritrean nationals being the third most referred

To find out more about labour exploitation, watch Mihail’s story

To find out more about county lines, watch Emma’s story

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