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Modern slavery and human trafficking

Modern slavery is a serious and brutal crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain.

It includes:

  • Human trafficking, including child trafficking
  • Slavery, servitude
  • Forced or compulsory labour
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Forced criminality
  • Organ removal (also known as organ harvesting)

Exploitation takes a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced manual labour and domestic servitude, and victims come from all around the world – men, women and children. For adults, lies and force are always used to gain control over the victim.

Modern slavery is a global business and a serious organised crime that makes abusers lots of money. It takes place in ordinary cities and towns across the UK, with victims often found in restaurants, fisheries, brothels, farms, hotels, pop-up industries such as car washes, and in people’s homes.

The Human Trafficking Foundation reports that “there are more people in slavery today than in the entire 350 year history of the transatlantic slave trade”.

Some people confuse modern slavery and human trafficking with illegal immigration, people smuggling, or migrant working which can mean people don’t report it when they see it, and victims are frightened to come forward and get help.

Find out more:

How it can affect you

Human traffickers and modern slavers usually take advantage of very vulnerable people. For example, people with financial issues, people addicted to drugs and alcohol, people with mental health problems or learning difficulties.But victims can come from any background.

Your abuser may try and tempt you into a new life, telling you that things will be better if you go with them and do as they say. They will lie to you, coerce you and manipulate you.

Once trapped by your abuser, you may feel unwilling to come forward to police or other agencies because you do not see yourself as a victim, or you are worried that you may also get in trouble. You may work with your abusers to hide what is happening, for fear of violence against yourself or your family, or because you are reliant on them for basic human needs, such as food or a place to stay.

You may be scared that you will be sent out of the country or punished by authorities. Some victims are made to believe they will be cursed by witchcraft rituals.

You may feel, alone, frightened, and powerless. But help is available and you have options.

Types of slavery and exploitation

Trafficking for sexual exploitation

Many people working in the sex industry have been trafficked. Your abuser may be taking nearly all your earnings from you and constantly move you around the country to keep you isolated and disassociated from any particular area.

Domestic servants

If you are working as a domestic servant, you are very vulnerable to abuse. You will probably be working alone and feel isolated from friends, family or support agencies. You will be at risk of abuse and exploitation from your employers. Reliant on your employer for your work, accommodation and immigration status, you may find yourself in a position with little to bargain with, becoming trapped into a life of slavery. You may accept harsh treatment, little or no pay and long working hours.

Forced labour

You may be forced to work on farms or in factories for hardly any pay – or no pay at all – in places such as farms, factories, car-washes or delivering leaflets. Your passport may have been taken from you. Your living conditions may be poor, and your working conditions potentially dangerous. It’s not just people from overseas who are affected – there have been cases in the UK of British men being forced to work in terrible conditions, day and night, with little or no pay.

Help for children

If you are a child that has been trafficked, your abusers may hit you and hurt you. You may be forced to have sex with people, made to work for no pay, pressured into marrying someone you don’t want to, given up for adoption, or made to take part in activities that are against the law, such as pick-pocketing, stealing from shops, or growing cannabis (marijuana).

Help if you don't speak English

If you do not speak English, you will find it especially difficult to get help. Information about help for victims of slavery and trafficking is available from the government in different languages.

Spot the signs of modern slavery

The Modern Slavery Helpline has put together a list to help you spot the signs of modern slavery. Look out for victims hiding in plain sight and help us shine a spotlight on this hidden crime.

  • 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 belongings - 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 - victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, e.g. passports

Further guidance:

What is the national referral mechanism?

If you are a victim of slavery or trafficking, you are entitled to help and protection from the UK government, called the National Referral Mechanism. This makes sure you get looked after for 45 days while you get back on your feet.

All support offered as part of the National Referral Mechanism is offered in confidence. You will also be entitled to protection and legal advice.

You can get help:

  • if you decide to talk to the police
  • finding a safe, temporary place to stay
  • with medical treatment
  • to cope with what has happened to you
  • with translating or interpreting information

Agencies such as the police or a local council can refer you to this help. If you want to refer yourself, ring the Salvation Army helpline on 0300 303 8151. You can also ask for a referral from the agencies below:

Find help and support

In Greater Manchester we are determined to protect victims of slavery and trafficking, and to help them get the help they need.

To find help and support you can:

You can also speak to someone from any of the organisations listed on the Modern Slavery Helpline website. These include:

  • Anti-Slavery International – human rights organisation
  • Barnardo’s – children’s charity
  • BCHA – specialist housing and social care support provider
  • City Hearts – supporting vulnerable people, including victims of trafficking and slavery
  • Eaves – supporting women who have been trafficked to and within the UK
  • Epcat UK – supporting child victims of trafficking and abuse
  • Gangmasters Licensing Authority – preventing the exploitation of workers
  • Medaille Trust – helping men, women and children who have been freed from trafficking
  • Migrant Help – providing migrants in the UK with help to find safety and access services
  • NSPCC – children’s charity, which also runs the Child Trafficking Advice Centre
  • Palm Cove Society – support and accommodation for victims of trafficking
  • Children’s Society – offers a specialist service for children who have been victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking
  • Salvation Army – international Christian charity support adult victims of trafficking
  • Unseen – providing safe refuge for survivors of modern slavery
  • Women’s Aid – accommodation and emotional support for women who are trafficked

How to report it

The law in the UK is designed to help protect victims of slavery, even if they have been forced to carry out activities that are against the law. The police should put victims first when investigating reports of slavery and trafficking.

Contact the Modern Slavery Helpline

0800 0121 700 – 24 hours a day. Calls can be made anonymously. Free from most landlines and mobile phones.

Report it online

The Modern Slavery Helpline also has an online form that lets you report modern slavery and human trafficking.

In an emergency: dial 999
An emergency is when a crime is being committed or has just been witnessed, there is a risk of injury, or a risk of serious damage to property.

In a non-emergency: dial 101
Use this number to report a non-emergency incident or make a general enquiry.

Report anonymously
Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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