The Guardian: Coronavirus lockdown halts surge in UK slavery

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Number of suspected victims of modern slavery falls for first time in four years

The number of suspected modern slavery victims identified in the UK has fallen for the first time in four years due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Home Office has said.

Officials said the decrease “is understood to have been influenced by the effects of restrictions implemented in the UK as part of the response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The UK’s national referral mechanism (NRM), the official system through which victims of modern slavery are identified and provided with support, received 2,871 referrals of potential victims in the first quarter of 2020 – a 14% fall from the previous three months. This is the first quarter-on-quarter fall since 2016.

Travel restrictions by other countries on people coming to the UK, increasing numbers of people self-isolating and businesses shutting after the lockdown on 23 March are understood to be some of the factors behind the decline.

Ministers have said people referred through the NRM will continue to be able to access support and government-funded accommodation through the pandemic.

Potential victims would usually be assisted to find new accommodation after 45 days, but will be able to remain for three months to protect them from Covid-19.

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