The National Crime Agency has released their end of year summary for Human Trafficking statistics in the United Kingdom, but this year’s findings were more harrowing than ever: the statistics told us that potential victims of trafficking in the UK have more than doubled in the last two years. Nearly 7000 victims were reported in 2018, breaking the record for the number of victims ever recorded.

Of those 7000 potential victims, most were found under labour exploitation. This means people have been forced to work on farms, in factories, nail bars, car washes, within illegal drug cultivation, or on fishing trawlers all across the UK. Victims of trafficking were also forced into sexual exploitation within brothels or within people’s homes, which is the second most common type of trafficking in the UK.

A disturbing finding was that referrals of children doubled compared to last year. Nearly half of the 7000 potential victims were under 18, and were mostly found in labour exploitation. In fact, more boys than adult men were reported under labour conditions last year; this is thought to be because children find it more difficult to learn of and understand their rights, and are easier to manipulate, transport, and threaten into exploitative situations.

Of the 7000 potential victims recorded, there were over 100 claimed nationalities. This means that well over 100 countries have trafficking links with the UK, not just for labour or sexually exploitative purposes but also for organ harvesting, forced marriage, illegal adoption and domestic servitude (working within people’s homes).

As the reasons behind trafficking become clearer, and as numbers of victims ever increase, it is easy to feel helpless at the seriousness and complexity of human trafficking. However, the fact that more victims than ever are being reported shows us that the systems we have in place are becoming far more effective. Businesses are more ethically conscious about their supply chains, funding for charities has increased, police training as well as private sector training (such as hotel staff) are becoming more widely available. People in congregations and within faith groups are also more aware than ever of the signs of trafficking, and aware of how to report suspicions: are you someone who knows what to look out for?

World Mission Council has developed resources that can help you raise awareness of global trafficking. We can provide Bible studies and a report on our partner’s work to give you an understanding of the worldwide implications of trafficking. We also work with Action of Churches Together in Scotland who have released their new ‘What are the Indicators’ leaflet on human trafficking, and will soon release their new leaflet on the biblical interpretation of modern slavery. Someone from World Mission would be happy to come and speak to your guild, presbytery or congregation on Human Trafficking, which would allow you to learn more about the crime and ask questions if you have any. If you are interested in any of these resources please contact rerskine@churchofscotland.org.uk.

We’ve got a long way to go before Trafficking is eradicated; but the more we make ourselves and others aware, the better chance we have of spotting, reporting and stopping the crime.

Have a read of the National Crime Agency statistics here: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/national-referral-mechanism-statistics/2018-nrm-statistics/1019-modern-slavery-and-human-trafficking-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-annual-report-2018/file