[A shortened version of this statement appears in the Independent, and elsewhere – 03/03/2022]

Whilst the Home Office claims use of the human trafficking determination process is sky rocketing, today’s data paints a very different story.

Published on 03/03/2022, the Home Office’s year-end modern slavery statistics state clearly that there has been a “20% rise” in the number of trafficking cases referred for support in 2021 (12,727) compared to 2020 (10,601).

This National Referral Mechanism data – outlining a rise in identification – has been used by Government to justify cuts and limits to support for survivors under Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making it’s way through the Lords.

However, it is vital to recognise that – nestled at the very bottom of the Home Office’s press release – the number of people identified as potential victims but never passed on for formal support has increased by 46% from 2020 (2,175) to 2021 (3,190). Under duty to notify statistics, we can see instances in which suspected victims are identified by first responders – such as the police or border control – and do not consent for further engagement (often putting them at risk of re-trafficking, and taking away their chance to access safe housing, caseworkers, or support linked to their exploitation).

The rise in suspected victims not asking for support is more than double the rise in those being referred. This sadly shows that the ‘tough on claimants’ rhetoric – peddled by Government – is starting to have real-world consequences. People identified as eligible to be considered for trafficking support are now even less willing to engage with the authorities than they were two years ago.

We urge the Government to take action to remedy this worrying trend, in which survivors are so close yet so far from securing the support they need to escape harm.

If you have been affected by what you have read, please write to your MP asking for Government to Scrap Part 5, which would heighten the evidence threshold upon referral and disqualify victims for their criminal history or delays in sharing abuse: www.tinyurl.com/scrappart5