Modern slavery risks have risen in 20 EU member states, according to a new global ranking compiled by Verisk Maplecroft.
The risk analytics firm’s Modern Slavery Index 2017 identified Romania, Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Bulgaria as posing the highest risk, noting that these countries have become key entry points for migrants who are vulnerable to exploitation.
Over 115,000 migrants are thought to have arrived in the EU so far this year, many of whom are forced to work for people trafficking gangs to pay off the cost of their journey.
The study found that while people in countries such as South Sudan and North Korea face the greatest threat from modern slavery, the EU showed the largest increase in risk over the past year.
Sam Haynes, Senior Human Rights Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, commented: “The migrant crisis has increased the risk of slavery incidents appearing in company supply chains across Europe.
“It is no longer just the traditional sourcing hotspots in the emerging economies that businesses should pay attention to when risk assessing their suppliers and the commodities they source.”
Verisk Maplecroft’s study was published as the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) said modern slavery now effects every major town and city in Britain.
The agency said there are currently 300 live investigations into forced labour in Britain, and that past estimates that there were up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK were likely just the “tip of the iceberg”.
In response, the NCA has launched a new six-month campaign designed to educate members of the public on how to spot the signs of modern slavery and sexual exploitation.
“Modern slavery has rightly been made a priority across law enforcement, but it is a hidden crime so the onus is on us to seek it out,” said Will Kerr, the NCA’s Director of Vulnerabilities.
“The more that we look for modern slavery the more we find the evidence of the widespread abuse of vulnerable.
“The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought. The intelligence we are gaining is showing that there are likely to be far more victims out there, and the numbers of victims in the UK has been underestimated.”
On Friday, 11 members of a family of travellers from Lincolnshire were convicted of a range of modern slavery offences after they exploited numerous vulnerable victims over a period of nearly three decades.
At the end of a hearing at Nottingham Crown Court, the Rooney family were found guilty of forcing at least 18 victims to work for little or no pay and live in squalid conditions.
Prosecutors explained how members of the family forced one man to dig his own grave, and said they would kill him if he refused to sign a contract locking him into working 12-hour days, seven days a week.
The family members will be sentenced on 7 September.