The number of potential victims of modern slavery reported to the authorities rose by more than a third to 5,145, a report by the National Crime Agency has revealed.
Labour exploitation of adults rose from 1,132 in 2016 to 1,326 last year, while labour exploitation of minors rose from 473 in 2016 to 1,026 last year.
NCA director Will Kerr said: “It is our assessment that the increase we are seeing here is driven by an increased awareness and greater reporting of modern slavery and that is to be welcomed.
“However, it also adds further evidence to our view that the figures almost certainly represent an underestimate of the true scale of slavery and trafficking in the UK.”
For the first time British citizens were the largest nationality recorded in the figures, up from 326 in 2016 to 819 in 2017. UK, Albanian and Vietnamese nationals are the most commonly reported victims.
Kerr said: “We are also seeing increasing crossovers between slavery and organised immigration crime outside of the UK. Often the same criminal networks are involved in transport, and migrants themselves are vulnerable to labour and sexual exploitation during their journeys and after.