How many people are living in slavery in the UK, and how are they identified?

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Authorities believe there are tens of thousands of people living in modern slavery in the UK today.

Hidden in dark corners and abused, it is hard to know exactly how many there are.

The National Referral Mechanism is the Government’s system for identifying victims of modern slavery.

Introduced in 2009, its definition of slavery includes human trafficking, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

To be assessed, the potential victim has to consent to be referred by the police, government agencies such as UK Visas and Immigration, a local authority or an anti-slavery NGO such as the Salvation Army. 

The Home Office and a unit called the UK Human Trafficking Centre must then decide whether to class that person as a victim of slavery. They aim to do that within 45 days. 

During the process, the individual can access legal and financial assistance as well as psychological support and safety measures, such as being placed in a safe house.

If they are found to be a victim of trafficking or slavery, the Home Office can grant them leave to remain in the country for a discretionary 12 months or  longer.

However, not all cases of exploitation meet the definition and the system has come under criticism for not protecting victims enough.

Critics also complain it is complex and difficult to use.


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