UK anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland has said identifying victims is his top priority after figures show just 2,340 people were identified as potential slaves during 2014.
The Home Office has estimated there are up to 13,000 people in slavery in the UK and Hyland said “significant numbers of victims are not being identified and therefore remain unprotected and in situations of abuse and exploitation”.
In his Strategic Plan 2015-17, Hyland said: “Improving efforts to identify potential victims is therefore crucial. The identification of victims of modern slavery is a prerequisite for their access to assistance and protection.”
The report said to increase referrals to the National Referral Mechanism, a framework for identifying victims, it was necessary to increase awareness and training among relevant agencies and improve support for victims.
Hyland, who has backed licensing of the procurement profession, also wants to “engage with the private sector to promote policies to ensure that supply chains are free from slavery and to encourage effectual transparency reporting”.
The commissioner, noting that from October 2015 all firms with turnover of at least £36 million will have to report on modern slavery in their supply chain, said the UK “becomes the first country in the world to introduce such a legal duty on large companies”.
“As supply chains have globalised and demand for cheap products and ever cheaper labour has continued to increase, the risks of slavery in supply chains, in the UK and internationally, have become much greater,” he said.
“Slavery in the supply chain is an abuse of human rights in the pursuit of profits and businesses have a duty to ensure it is not tolerated.”
Hyland said he also had priorities around improving the law enforcement response to modern slavery, international collaboration and partnership working.