What is Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking

Modern Slavery can take many forms including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude and slavery. Children (those aged under 18) are considered victims of trafficking, whether or not they have been coerced, deceived or paid to secure their compliance. They need only have been recruited, transported, received or harboured for the purpose of exploitation. It is an international crime, affecting over 43 million people around the world. It is a global problem that transcends age, gender and ethnicity. It is not an issue confined to history or an issue that only exists in certain countries. It is something that is still happening today, and it happens here in the UK.

Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking FAQ

Are there different forms of Modern Slavery?

The term Modern Slavery captures a whole range of types of exploitation, many of which occur together. These include but are not limited to:

• Sexual exploitation – This includes but is not limited to sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, forced prostitution and the abuse of children for the production of child abuse images/videos. 35% of all reported trafficking victims in the UK are victims of sexual exploitation.3

• Domestic servitude – This involves a victim being forced to work in predominantly private households, usually performing domestic chores and childcare duties. Their freedom may be restricted and they may work long hours often for little or no pay, often sleeping where they work. 24% of reported victims of domestic servitude referred to the National Referral mechanism were minors at the time of exploitation.4

• Forced labour – Victims may be forced to work long hours for little or no pay in poor conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families. It can happen in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, laying driveways, hospitality, food packaging, agriculture, maritime and beauty (nail bars). Often victims are housed together in one dwelling. 47% of reported victims exploited in the UK are forced into labour. 18% of all reported forced labour victims in the UK are children – an increase of 62.5% since 2015. 81% of all reported victims of forced labour taking place in the UK are male.5

• Criminal exploitation – This can be understood as the exploitation of a person to commit a crime, such as pick-pocketing, shop-lifting, cannabis cultivation, drug trafficking and other similar activities that are subject to penalties and imply financial gain for the trafficker. In the UK in 2016, 34 potential modern slavery victims were involved in fraud or financial crime whereby perpetrators force victims to claim benefits on arrival but the money is withheld, or the victim is forced to take out loans or credit cards. Cannabis cultivation is the highest category of criminal exploitation with 33% of those being a minor at the time of referral, the majority being Vietnamese.7

• Other forms of exploitation – Organ removal; forced begging; forced benefit fraud; forced marriage and illegal adoption.

How are victims recruited?

Gang masters and traffickers use various ways to recruit victims in to slavery.

  • The Internet – through online social media, friendships through the internet or posted job advertisments
  • News Paper Advertisements – Gangs recruit using the small ads in any national or regional newspaper offering well paid jobs over seas
  • Word of Mouth – A trafficker may already be using a certain individual who tells a friend about a great opportunity.  It can even be between related families or even within the close immediate family.
  • Prisons, Courts or Job Centres – Certain individuals pray on the vulnerability of a person who may have just been released from prison.  They hang around outside waiting for the prisoner who may have nowhere to go, then offering them a place to stay.  The same happens outside the court room and the job centre.  Traffickers are waiting and looking out for people who are vulnerable.
  • Foodbank – Many people use a Foodbank because they are struggling to make ends meet.  A trafficker recognises this and will offer to pay for food from somewhere else or to maybe provide the persons children with shoes and clothes etc.  When the individual wants nothing more to do with the the trafficker they are told that they are in debt to the trafficker, threatened and coerced into all sort of activity for the trafficker.
  • Homeless –  There are many vulnerable people who sleep rough on the streets of cities and town in the UK.  These vulnerable people are offered warm places to stay and clothing which leads them into crime for the traffickers.

How are child victims recruited?

  • From an orphanage
  • Trafficked by a relative
  • Coerced by a friend
  • Child in care
  • Befriended by an adult – Grooming
  • Out and about in their locality
  • Drop out of mainstream education

There is no single, typical victim profile;  Men, women and children are targeted irrespective of their age or background.

However, the one thing they do all have in common is that they are VULNERABLE in some way.

Why are people actually trafficked?

Q1 What are two primary factors driving the growth of modern slavery and human trafficking?

A1 High profits for Low risk 


Q2 Modern slavery and human trafficking is a market driven criminal industry but what are the two principles that its based on?

A2 Supply and demand


There are also the PUSH PULL factors that are at play:

PUSH – People are pushed out of their current situation, for example poverty, war, lack of opportunity etc.

PULL – People are offered the chance of a better life, higher wages, employment etc.

Are there any indicators I can look out for?

There are quiet a number of indicators that may lead you to think that a person in a potential victim.

  • They may seem Fearful – Especially of the police / authority figures.
  • They may have been recruited through false promises of high pay or a better life.
  • They may show signs of being controlled.
  • They may not be able to communicate due to language barriers.
  • They may claim they are ‘just visiting’ but have no address or have no idea of there whereabouts.
  • There may be the presence of children who should be in full time education.
  • They may have little freedom or control of their own life.
  • There may be high security measures.
  • They may be paid very little if anything and may rely on tips.
  • They may work excessive hours.
  • They may be displaying poor mental or physical health and be of a poor appearance.
  •  They may be tattooed or even branded to show who they belong to.
  • They may be living in accommodation that has many others living in the the same place.
Who are the victims of Modern Slavery?

There is no typical victim of slavery – victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities and cut across the population. But it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, and within minority or socially excluded groups. Approximately two-thirds of victims are women, and a third are men. Every fourth victim of Modern Slavery is a child. Child victims are victims of child abuse and should therefore be treated as such using existing child protection procedures and statutory protocols. Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to vulnerability to becoming victims of Modern Slavery. What’s more, victims can often face more than one type of abuse and slavery, for example if they are sold to another trafficker and then forced into another form of exploitation.

What do I do if I suspect someone is in slavery or being trafficked?

It is very clear if you suspect that someone is being trafficked for the purposes of slavery.

Firstly, if you feel a person is in immediate danger then you must call 999 and report the incident.

If you are a ‘First Responder’ (see below) then you MUST report your concerns to your safeguarding lead.  They should then fill in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) form but only if the victim consents.  If they do not want to be referred to the NRM then the first responder has a statutory duty to notify the Home Office using the MS1 form.

If you are NOT a first responder  then you need to ask two questions.  Firstly ,who is the safeguarding lead in my organisation and secondly, what is the procedure for reporting concerns? they should then call 101 and report your concern as a potential crime.  By calling 101 they are informing a first responder.

As a citizen, in your personal life you may see a concern that you wish to report.  You can ring 101 and report directly to the police or if you don’t want to make that contact then there is a form you can access on this website by clicking ‘Report a Concern’.  It will ask you to report your concern anonymously or you can leave your details.



  • Police forces
  • Certain parts of the Home Office:
  • UK Visas and Immigration
  • Border Force
  • Immigration Enforcement
  • National Crime Agency
  • Local Authorities
  • Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)
  • Salvation Army
  • Migrant Help
  • Barnardo’s
  • Refugee Council


I've have heard of the National Referral Mechanism, but what is it?

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate protection and support.

The NRM is also the mechanism through which the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) collects data about victims. This information contributes to building a clearer picture about the scope of human trafficking in the UK.

The NRM was introduced in 2009 to meet the UK’s obligations under the Council of European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. At the core of every country’s NRM is the process of locating and identifying “potential victims of trafficking” (PVoT).

The NRM grants a minimum 45-day reflection and recovery period for victims of human trafficking. Trained case owners at UKHTC decide whether individuals referred to them should be considered to be victims of trafficking according to the definition in the Council of Europe Convention.

Information from The Modern Slavery Helpline – www.modernslaveryhelpline.org