The impact of COVID-19 on Modern Slavery in the UK

Only last year, 10,627 potential victims of trafficking were identified in the UK and referred for support. That’s a 52% increase in referrals since 2018, and now many more people are becoming vulnerable to trafficking as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis is posing new and increasing challenges to the ability to identify potential cases of modern slavery and support survivors across the UK. To mark this year’s Anti-Slavery Day, IOM UK will host an online panel discussion to explore the impact of COVID-19 on modern slavery in the UK and how the lessons learned during this time can shape future responses.

The panel will discuss the trends in identification and NRM referrals of potential victims of modern slavery since the start of the pandemic, and the dynamics of exploitation forms and vulnerabilities, as well as the challenges of providing support to victims and how these can be overcome. In addition, the panel will discuss the ways in which criminal justice proceedings have adapted to the COVID-19 context in relation to modern slavery crimes.




13:00 - 13:05     Welcome and introduction, by IOM UK

13:05 – 13:15   Introduction to the panel discussion, Moderator, Professor Alex Balch, University of Liverpool

13:15 - 13:55     Panel discussion

13:15 - 13:25     Dr Patrick Burland, Senior Project Officer, IOM UK

13:25 – 13:35    Rebecca Helmes, Team Manager, Hestia, Modern Slavery Response Team

13:35 – 13:45    Tatiana Gren-Jardan, Head of Modern Slavery Unit, Justice & Care

13:45 - 13:55     Pam Bowen CBE, Senior Legal Adviser, Crown Prosecution Service

13:55 – 14:10    Q&A, moderated by Professor Alex Balch, University of Liverpool

14:10 - 14:15     Closing remarks, IOM UK



Dr Patrick Burland is a Senior Project Officer at IOM UK. He has a PhD from the University of the West of England for his thesis ‘The Responses to Trafficked Adults in the UK: Rights, Rhetoric and Reality’ and in 2017 won a Human Trafficking Foundation Anti-Slavery Day media award for best written opinion piece dealing with modern slavery. Before joining IOM UK he volunteered in support of domestic workers and immigration detainees. 

Alex Balch is a professor of politics at the University of Liverpool with research interests in policies on immigration and modern slavery. He has experience designing and implementing programmes and providing leadership in a diverse range of national and international contexts. He currently leads the Antislavery Knowledge Network, funded by the UK Government’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) via the national Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). He is also Acting Director of Research at the Policy and Evidence Centre on Modern Slavery and Human Rights (supported by the Strategic Priorities Fund) which seeks to enhance understanding of modern slavery and transform the effectiveness of laws and policies designed to overcome it.

Tatiana Gren-Jardan is the Head of the Modern Slavery Policy Unit at Justice and Care, jointly created with the Centre for Social Justice. She has an extensive experience working in the field of tackling modern slavery and human trafficking for over 15 years. In her previous role as the Director of Strategy for the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Tatiana had a responsibility for overseeing the development and implementation of the Commissioner’s strategic priorities working closely with the team of policy leads. She joined the Commissioner’s team as Victim Support and Partnership Adviser – her main area of expertise. Previously, Tatiana worked as the Director of the Human Trafficking Foundation and in a variety of roles at the International Organisation for Migration, Mission to Moldova.

Pam Bowen is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Crown Prosecution Service. She is the CPS lead for human trafficking and organised immigration crime and has worked in developing policy for prosecutors and across government on human trafficking, organised immigration crime and prostitution since 2006. She was responsible for developing the first policy on the non-prosecution of victims of trafficking who had committed criminal offences in 2007.  She has worked with international organisations, Ministers and government authorities in source and transit countries in negotiating and developing improved and collaborative responses to human trafficking, including training, mutual legal assistance, capacity building and developing policy to improve application of legislation as well as contributing to development of European and International policy and guidance since 2009.

Rebecca Helme is a Team Manager within Hestia’s Modern Slavery Response Team, the largest subcontractor of the Salvation Army, responsible for the delivery of outreach support across all 32 London Boroughs. Rebecca has worked in various frontline services providing support to survivors of Modern Slavery. Previously within a female high needs safe accommodation in Sheffield for City Hearts, then later as a Post NRM programme coordinator in South Yorkshire and the North East.

"Migration is one of the key realities of our time. It cuts across communities, influences priorities, and shapes societies.
To realise the benefits of migration for migrants and host communities alike, our responses must be innovative, collaborative and designed beyond the immediate."


Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of the IOM UK Office