Nearly two dozen modern slavery cases in south Wales as charity warns record number calling helpline

Domestic violence stock pic PA
The charity Unseen's annual report shows potential victims working in the care sector across the UK have increased by 30%. Credit: PA Images

There were 19 confirmed cases of modern slavery in south Wales last year alone, according to new figures from a leading charity.

Unseen said calls to its UK-wide anti-slavery helpline reached a record high, with the number of potential victims in the care sector rising by nearly a third and suspected cases of forced surrogacy being reported for the first time.

The charity's study also found another 90 potential modern slavery victims in south Wales last year.

Demand for Unseen's services - via its helpline, online or via the charity's app - across the UK have risen "significantly" for the fourth year in a row.

The charity warns an "ever-increasing hostile environment" for migrants and foreign workers makes people fearful to report concerns. Credit: PA Images

There were 11,700 "contacts" with the charity's helpline for modern slavery and exploitation in 2023, up by nearly a fifth compared to 2022.

However, Unseen's director Justine Carter said the increase indicated "we are succeeding in raising awareness of the issue and mobilising more people to act”.

Three potential cases of forced surrogacy were reported to the helpline, according to the charity - something the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner described as alarming.

Unseen defined forced surrogacy as a potential victim being forced or coerced into carrying a pregnancy for someone else.

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The anti-slavery charity's annual report shows a 30% rise in potential victims working in the care sector. It's an area which has been a "concern" to the charity "for some time."

Ms Carter suggested people could be put off reporting concerns due to the fear of being deported, with a significant proportion of victims coming from abroad.

In 2023, potential victims came from 106 countries, up from 99 the previous year. This included a higher number of people from India than from any other country for the first time.

She said: “We remain concerned that the ever-increasing hostile environment in the UK towards migrants and foreign workers means that fewer people feel able to raise concerns and seek the help and support that they desperately need.

“More needs to be done to encourage victims to come forward and to properly resource efforts to stamp out modern slavery and exploitation for good.”

The charity's data showed while contacts to the helpline have risen, the number of potential victims reported has dropped by 10%.

Modern slavery cases reported also fell by 16% in 2023 compared to 2022.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime and we are committed to ensuring that needs-based support is available to victims to help them rebuild their lives, and to working with first responders to ensure victims understand the support and protection available.

“To address concerns about abuse within the health and care worker sector, providers in England are now only able to sponsor migrant workers if they are undertaking activities regulated by the Care Quality Commission.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “All forms of modern slavery are unacceptable. Every case is one too many. Public services, third sector partners and law enforcement agencies have a critical role in tackling modern slavery and safeguarding people and communities. It is important the public report any concerns to the authorities, including the modern slavery and exploitation helpline.

"We continue to work with organisations to tackle this crime, bring perpetrators to justice and support survivors. We are also working hard to raise awareness of this crime so people can better identify it and help report cases."