Slavery is not an issue confined to history or an issue that only exists in certain countries - it is something that is still happening today. It is a global problem and the UK is no exception.

Modern-day slavery and trafficking can include victims who have been brought overseas and vulnerable people in the UK. It includes victims who are illegally forced to work against their will in many different places, including brothels, cannabis farms, nail bars and farms.

Human trafficking is the transportation of people for exploitation by force, violence, deception, intimidation, coercion or abusing their vulnerability. This abuse of vulnerability may be sexual or labour exploitation and servitude.

Those who are trafficked have little choice in what happens to them and usually suffer threats and violence against them and/or their family, or through forced financial debt.

Types of slavery

There is no typical victim of slavery – victims can be men, women and children of all ages and cut across the population. But it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups.

Slavery includes:

  • Child Trafficking -Young people (under 18) are moved either internationally or domestically so they can be exploited.
  • Forced labour / debt bondage - Victims are forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to. Low wages and increased debts mean not only that they cannot ever hope to pay off the loan, but the debt may be passed down to their children.
  • Forced labour - Victims are forced to work against their will, often working very long hours for little or no pay in dire conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families.It can happen in many sectors of our economy, from mining to tarmacking, hospitality and food packaging.
  • Sexual exploitation - Victims are forced to perform non-consensual or abusive sexual acts against their will, such as prostitution, escort work and pornography. Whilst women and children make up the majority of victims, men can also be affected. Adults are coerced often under the threat of force, or another penalty.
  • Criminal exploitation - Often controlled and maltreated, victims are forced into crimes such as cannabis cultivation or pick pocketing against their will.
  • Domestic servitude - Victims are forced to carry out housework and domestic chores in private households with little or no pay, restricted movement, very limited or no free time and minimal privacy often sleeping where they work.

Spot the signs

Signs of slavery in the UK and elsewhere are often hidden, making it very hard to recognise victims around us. Here are some common signs to look out for.

  • Physical appearance -victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn
  • Isolation - Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
  • Poor living conditions - Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and / or living and working at the same address
  • Few or no personal effects - Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
  • Restricted freedom of movement - Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, e.g. passports
  • Unusual travel times - They may be dropped off / collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.
  • Reluctant to seek help - Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.

Where can I get help or further information?

If you think slavery is happening, do not attempt to let the victim know that you have reported it or confront the traffickers. You must ensure their safety and yours.

If it’s an emergency, always call 999. For non-emergencies, call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

You can also contact the Modern Slavery helplineon 0800 0121 700 24 hours a day. Calls can be made anonymously and are free from landlines and most mobile phones.


Find support in my area