London, Aug 9: According to the latest statistics released by the British Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the number of complaints registered in cases of modern slavery went up by 27 per cent.
In 2017-18, the CPS charged 239 suspects in cases of modern slavery, where 185 others were convicted. CPS claims that it was referred the highest ever - 355 - cases of modern slavery by the UK police and other agencies.
Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders, who was quoted in the CPS report, said modern slavery should be tackled on "national priority" in the UK.
"There is no place in our society for those who enslave others, whether for work, sexual or criminal exploitation or domestic servitude," he said.
Saunders, while claiming that migrants are the worst victims of modern slavery, a significant number of minors of UK-origin have also been forced into offences.
The report highlights the growing number of teenagers in the UK being used by "urban gangs" to smuggle banned narcotic substances in the rural areas. CPS claims the gangs are exploiting "vulnerable people, mostly children" for selling drugs.
While Prosecution Service claims to be addressing the issue of modern slavery on utmost priority, it has appealed the government to take steps for improving the pace of convictions. At present, an average case of modern slavery takes three years for conclusion in the courts.
According to Andrew Wallis, CEO of UK anti-slavery organization Unseen, the slow conviction in cases of modern slavery is due to the complicated nature of the offence. In order to eradicate the menace and expedite the prosecution process, added Wallis, coordination and cooperation is required between police, CPS, NGOs and other agencies.
The Prosecution Service report cites the case of a Slovakian couple as a case study to highlight the menace. The couple are accused of arranging the arrival of Slovakian immigrants, including children and mentally disabled, who were pushed into forced labour.
The CPS report comes in the backdrop of a study released on labour exploitation in May this year, which said the victims of modern slavery in the UK hailed mostly from the third-world nations. The study, titled ‘The Nature and Scale of Labour Exploitation Across All Sectors Within the United Kingdom', identified five nations whose migrants could be the potential victims. They are: India, Romania, Poland, China and Sudan.