Covid and Brexit combine to create a perfect storm

Nov 2020 Update: Modern slavery and Covid-19

Many people ask how COVID is affecting modern slavery victims and whether it is resulting in an increase in victims or the crime being pushed further underground.

In short, it is hard to tell. We examine some recently published data to get a clearer picture…

Between 23 March 2020 and 23 September 2020 the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline responded to 2,942 calls, 790 online reports and 30 app submissions, making a total of 3,762 inbound contacts. This is compared to 8,494 contacts for the same period in 2019 – a massive fall in calls. In 77 cases, the pandemic was directly cited as an influencing factor by the person contacting the Helpline. Similarly, when lockdown measures were first introduced in France, there was an apparent 75 per cent reduction in the detection of Organised Immigration Crime (OIC).

However, in the long run, the global recession and ongoing hardship caused by COVID is likely to see OIC increase. According to OXFAM, there are 547.6 million additional people in poverty due to COVID. 239.8m of these come from East Asia & Pacific, 128.8m from South Asia and 54.3m from Latin America & Caribbean. As a result, there are increasing numbers of vulnerable people across the world, trying to escape poverty and find a better future.

In the UK, we know that many of the socio and economic drivers that help modern slavery and criminal gangs flourish are growing. There is increased unemployment, growing numbers visiting foodbanks, rises in undocumented immigration and general vulnerability. Combine this with Brexit and the fact that many NGOs, who provide vital support, are facing significant cut backs and we have the making of a perfect storm.

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