It’s tempting to think that slavery is a thing of the past, but it isn’t.
Modern slavery is a term used to cover slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour; and human trafficking. It exists in a wide variety of brutal forms. It includes people being forced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. It includes people being forced to work for very low pay, or no pay at all, sometimes within the perpetrator’s home.
Where a person deprives another person of their freedom, exercises control over them so that they are not free to make choices of their own, and treats that other person like they owned them, then it is likely that such actions will amount to slavery.
Often, victims of slavery are moved around, or trafficked, by the person who is controlling them. A person is trafficked if they are brought to (or moved around) a country by others who trick, threaten, frighten, hurt or force them to do work or other things they don’t want to do.
Victims are often people who are vulnerable, who are tricked into trafficking and slavery by false promises of jobs, education and even loving relationships. While many victims are migrants who have been trafficked into the UK from other countries, they may also be born and bred in the UK.
How to spot a potential victim of slavery
Signs of slavery and exploitation are often hidden, making it hard to recognise potential victims. Victims can be any age, male or female, and any nationality. Some may even be children or young people. But some of the common signs include:
- They may be malnourished and poorly dressed, with few personal possessions, and may wear clothes that are not suitable for their work
- They may have physical injuries, or signs of old or serious untreated injuries
- They may seem withdrawn or frightened
- They may be unable to answer questions directed at them, or to speak for themselves, or someone else with them might speak for them
- If they do speak, they might be inconsistent in the information they provide, including basic facts such as the address where they live
- They may not have possession of things like passports, identification or bank account details.
What to do if you think someone is a victim?
If you suspect someone might be a victim of modern slavery, then please contact your council’s Local Safeguarding Team. Please don't assume that someone else will report the concern and don't worry if you think you might be wrong – it is still important for someone with experience and responsibility to look into it.
You can also call 101 which is the police non-emergency number. If you think someone is in immediate danger, you should call 999.
If you think a crime might have taken place, such as rape, assault or theft, please ring the police and be careful not to remove or destroy any evidence.
If you are a victim
If you are trapped in modern slavery, there is help out there for you. You can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700, or the Salvation Army Helpline on 0300 303 8151. Or you can contact the police or your local council.
If you are identified as a victim of slavery, then you will be entitled to:
- help and protection from the Government, provided on a confidential basis
- support if you decide to talk to the police
- independent emotional, medical and practical help, which could include finding you temporary safe accommodation, helping you with medical treatment, having someone to help you cope with your experience, and someone to help you communicate in English.
You can find more information about trafficking and modern slavery here.