U.K. has 100,000 modern slaves, but most go undetected, study says

The report further cautioned that the coronavirus pandemic could push more people into forced labor for car washes and brothels.

U.K. has 100,000 modern slaves, but most go undetected, study says
Flickr/images/slavery museum

It has been revealed that Britain is home to at least 100,000 modern slaves, ten times more than the official data, with some fear that undetected victims be up to 90 percent. 

The exact figure might be even higher. This is according to the Anti-slavery charity Justice and Care and Think Tank, The Center for Social Justice. Furthermore, it cautioned that the coronavirus pandemic could push more people into forced labor for car washes and brothels.

The study came in the aftermath of media and activist allegations. They alleged that online fashion brand Boohoo suppliers have underpaid garment staff in Leicester, central England. Also, they failed to protect the workers from COVID-19. Last week Boohoo confirmed it was investigating.

Justice and Care said that government action to combat modern slavery was already decreasing in recent years. It also added that the iconic anti-slavery law of 2015 might have established a “false sense of security.”

“While Britain has made progress in the fight against modern slavery, not least in passing the Modern Slavery Act five years ago. So much more work is necessary to address the issue,” said Christian Guy, Chief Executive Officer of the charity.

The world’s first law is already under review following outrage. The outrage was due to claims that it is not in full use by jail traffickers. Moreover, it is also not driving companies to address ‘forced labor,’ nor is it helping enough victims.

“Ninety percent of victims may go undetected, and thousands of traffickers run riot,” said Guy.

Last year, Britain reported a 10,627 alleged victims-up 52 percent from 2018. Many of them have been victims of labor trafficking, and many have come from nations like Albania, Nigeria, and Vietnam.

Government’s effort to combat modern slaves

Home Secretary for Britain, Priti Patel, said her department would look very closely at the findings of the report.

“Although the Modern Slavery Act is revolutionary in combating this hideous crime, we ‘re only just starting in the battle to rid the U.K. of this evil,” Patel said.

Government reports in 2018 claimed that, based on an earlier estimation of 10,000-13,000 slaves remaining in the country, the crime sets Britain back by up to 4.3 billion pounds ($5.6 billion ) annually.


The charity and the think tank said the government had to update its figures, including the taxpayer’s cost of the crime. The study reached its estimate of 100,000 by using police statistics of one area of Britain-the the West Midlands. It predicted the number of victims domestically using a special artificial intelligence model and extending that data nationwide.

The research offers a “very exciting and new way” to evaluate the problem. According to academics at the Nottingham University Rights Lab, this is the world’s first major platform for research on slavery.

“It is very hard to estimate the size of a concealed population. However, this report presumably offers a new piece of the anti-slavery measurement toolkit,” Zoe Trodd, Director of the Rights Lab, told the Thomson RushHourDaily Foundation by email.

The Walk Free Foundation’s 2018 Global Slavery Index placed the number of slaves in Britain at 136,000, and 40.3 million worldwide. However, the methodology is under extensive debate and criticism by several activists and scholars in the field.

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