Modern slavery is the act of exercising control or ownership over another person and using this power to exploit them.

Modern slavery can take many forms, such as:

  • forced labour – forcing someone to work against their will, often working very long hours for little or no pay, in poor conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families
  • sexual exploitation – forcing someone to perform non-consensual or abusive acts against their will
  • criminal exploitation – forcing someone into crimes against their will, such as cannabis cultivation or pick-pocketing
  • debt bondage – forcing someone to work to pay off debts that realistically they will never be able to do due to low wages or increased debts
  • domestic servitude – forcing someone to carry out housework or 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

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery. It is a criminal act that involves the movement of persons with the intent to exploit them. Trafficking can occur within the same street, within the UK, across county boarders, and also internationally. People are victims of human trafficking if they have been moved for the purposes of exploitation, even if this exploitation is yet to take place.

People can be trafficked for many different forms of exploitation such as forced prostitution, forced labour, forced begging, forced criminality, forced marriage, domestic servitude and forced organ removal.

Traffickers and ‘slave masters’ use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.

Common signs that someone is being exploited include those listed below. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and that warning signs will show themselves differently in each person. It is important to explore all concerns over someone’s behaviour and personal circumstances and to consider whether these could be signs of exploitation.

  • lacking personal items and identity documents – these may be in the possession of another person
  • fearful or withdrawn behaviour, or efforts made to disguise this
  • having their communication controlled by another person – may act as though they are instructed by or dependent on someone else
  • tattoos or other marks indicating ownership
  • physical or psychological abuse, ill health, exhaustion or injury – may look unkempt and malnourished.
  • working and living in the same location or building
  • dirty, cramped, unhygienic or overcrowded accommodation, including shared houses, caravans, sheds, tents and outbuildings
  • working in a job different to that specified at the time of recruitment.
  • reluctance or inability to provide details about their personal circumstances – such as work or accommodation addresses