30 per cent increase in modern slavery referrals in Wales

There has been a 30 per cent increase in reported cases of modern slavery in Wales in the last year, according to National Crime Agency statistics.

First Minister Mark Drakeford will today (Friday) tell a gathering of public service workers that 251 referrals of potential victims of slavery were made here in 2018, up from 193 referrals in 2017. 60 per cent of the referrals in Wales were for labour exploitation. The 30 per cent increase in the last year follows a 56 per cent increase in cases 2016-2017.

Mr Drakeford will be speaking at a UNISON Cymru Wales event in Butetown Community Centre, Cardiff, organised by the trade union’s Black members to mark International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

The 251 referrals are comprised of: –

  • 94 females/ 157 males
  • 126 adults/ 125 minors
  • 77 of the adult referrals and 74 of the minor referrals were for labour exploitation (totalling 151 referrals)
  • The most common countries of origin of the 251 are: UK (103 referrals); Vietnam (21); Sudan (16); Albania (16); Romania (13); China (11) and Eritrea (10)

Stephen Chapman, Welsh Government’s Anti-Human Trafficking Co-ordinator is also among the speakers at the event.

Kebba Manneh, Chair of UNISON Black Members Group said,

“There are more people in slavery today across the world, than in the entire 350 year history of the transatlantic slave trade and slavery in Wales is on the rise.

“60 per cent of the referrals in Wales in the last year were for exploitation at work. That’s why trade unions like UNISON have a major role in the fight against modern slavery.

“We have been lobbying employers to sign up to the Welsh Government’s Code of Practice for Ethical Employment in Supply Chains which should ensure workers are treated fairly and no-one is exploited.

“With 100,000 members in Wales, UNISON can help educate our members and the wider community in recognising the signs of exploitation.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said,

“Slavery is a crime against humanity and we will use all the tools we have at our disposal to fight it.

“Wales took a lead in the UK, creating the role of an Anti-Slavery Co-ordinator, and Wales introduced the Code of Practice on ethical employment in supply chains.

“The Welsh public sector spends around £6bn every year on goods and services involving international supply chains and the Code can help ensure at every stage, there are good employment practices for millions of employees.

“We must do more to combat modern slavery and I intend to strengthen legal protections in the forthcoming Social Partnership Act.”

Roger McKenzie, UNISON assistant general secretary, said,

“There are more human beings moving around the earth today than at any time since the transatlantic slave trade. That movement is either to do with seeking work or fleeing war or persecution. Many are fleeing countries that were once colonised to move to the countries that once colonised or enslaved them.

“We are still tangling with the legacy of slavery today and face the consequences of this in the rising tide of racism and fascism. UNISON has always and will continue to play our part in fighting both. This meeting is not just a remembrance of the abolition of the slave trade – it’s a rallying point in the continued fight against racism and fascism.”


Notes for editors

  • Using International Labour Organization figures, the Human Trafficking Foundation says that there are more people in slavery today across the world, than in the entire 350 year history of the transatlantic slave trade. The Foundation says the extent of human trafficking in the UK is likely to be far greater than the NRM statistics would suggest.
  • Victims of modern slavery will often be fearful and reluctant to seek any help. Many come to the UK to try and escape abuse with the promise of a better life only to find they experience further exploitation.
·         To report slavery you should call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121700. There is also a telephone number providing support for victims:  0800 731 8147.
  • UNISON Cymru Wales Black members’ event to mark International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition will be held in Butetown Community Centre, Cardiff, on Friday 23 August
  • Speakers include: Kebba Manneh (chair, UNISON Cymru Wales Black Members); First Minister Mark Drakeford; Tanya Palmer (UNISON Cymru Wales regional secretary); academics Dr Roiyah Saltus and Abu Bakr Madden-Al Shabazz; Roger McKenzie (UNISON assistant general secretary); Stephen Chapman (Anti-slavery co-ordinator, Welsh Government); Shavanah Taj (Wales TUC President) and Peter Crews (UNISON Cymru Wales convenor)


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Press Officer on 07816 538397