Scams and Older People
Child Sexual Exploitation
Loneliness and Vulnerability
Although most people think that slavery only happens overseas, there are thousands of people trapped in modern slavery in the UK.
They are extremely vulnerable men, women and children who are abused for criminal profit, often forced to live in squalor and work long hours for little or no wages. They are stripped of their freedom and human rights, and suffer enormous trauma.
Large numbers of people are trafficked into the UK from abroad, mainly from Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania, Albania, and Poland, but other countries too. However, there are also a significant and growing number of British nationals living in slavery here.
Official Home Office figures estimate that there are up to 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK, but the National Crime Agency believes this is just the tip of the iceberg, as many victims are unable or unwilling to go to the authorities about their situation. Or, even if they do, they may not be recognised as victims of modern slavery.
The latest Global Slavery Index published in July 2018 estimates that there were 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK in 2016. That’s 2.1 people enslaved for every thousand people in the country.
“In few other crimes are human beings used as commodities over and over again. It is a human evil, horrifying in its inhumanity.”
Kevin Hyland - The UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner
In 2017, a total of 5,145 potential victims were identified, an increase of 35 per cent on the year before, and the National Crime Agency believes the number will continue to rise. The largest single group was British citizens (819 people), followed by Albanian and Vietnamese nationals.
Just under half of the adults were women. Just over 2,100 – 41% – were children.
Many victims of modern slavery are forced to labour in industries such as agriculture, construction, nail bars, hospitality, manufacturing and car washes. Many women and girls are trafficked for sexual exploitation; others for domestic slavery – cooking, cleaning, washing, looking after children or elderly relatives. Children are often forced to commit crimes such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, cannabis growing or begging.
Click here for more detail about the various types of modern slavery.
Estimated number in modern slavery (UK)
Potential victims identified (2017)
Proportion of victims who were children
Homeless people are at high risk of ending up in slavery. A survey report published in January 2017 found that around two-thirds of homelessness organisations had come across potential cases of modern slavery among their clients.
Modern slavery happens ANYWHERE – cities, towns, villages, rural areas. Yet it is a crime that still goes largely undetected, because people are not looking out for it.
Public misconceptions about modern slavery and trafficking
Research conducted by the Co-op in 2017 suggested that four out of ten people in the UK were not sure what modern slavery was. A third of those who had heard of slavery did not believe it happened in their own city or town.
Other studies have also found that many myths abound, such as:
MYTHS OF MODERN SLAVERY
All victims are abducted
All traffickers are male
Girls can’t become victims
Only poor or underprivileged people become victims
None of these are true.
In the UK, people tend to think that trafficking and slavery is a problem confined to larger, urban areas, but it goes on everywhere. Not only that, it is a fast-growing problem – data published by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner shows that in 2015/16, there were 870 crimes recorded by police in England and Wales across all police force areas. A year later, this number had risen to 2,255. Go to the Downloads section on this page to see the latest figures for your police force area.
Globally it is estimated that there are over 40 million people living in slavery.
What is being done to tackle modern slavery?
Eradicating modern slavery is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and the problem is recognised as a serious problem by authorities in the UK. Click here to find out more about some of the steps being taken here by the government and others to fight modern slavery.
What are the signs that people are involved in modern slavery in your area?
There is no typical victim of slavery. Victims are men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities.
However, certain types of business are at higher risk of involvement in slavery. In towns and cities, for instance, nail bars and hand car washes, as cash businesses, are at high risk of illegal working and exploitation of vulnerable people. Click here to read more about the possible signs that modern slavery is taking place.
Organised crime gangs often target homeless and vulnerable people – those with learning disabilities or mental health problems. They know the homeless centres and park benches, and sometimes will round people up in broad daylight.
What can you do?
Trafficking gangs are dangerous criminals, therefore you must never act on suspicions yourself in ways that may put you or the possible victims at risk.
Instead, if you suspect that modern slavery is going on near you, you can call the police on 101, or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.
There is also a 24/7 Referral Helpline hosted by the Salvation Army on 0300 3038151.
You can also call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Some victims may not recognise themselves as a victim or want to talk to the authorities or be formally referred for support. They may be scared of their employer, or even genuinely believe that their ‘boss’ is looking after them.
This should NOT prevent you from reporting your concerns.
What will happen next?
Safeguarding the victim is the first priority of all public authorities, and the police and other authorities can refer potential victims to specialist support, including accommodation in a safe house in a new location, advice, and access to medical and legal services.
Where child victims are involved, the local authority will also implement relevant child protection procedures.
The police or other authorities such as the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority will investigate and may be able to bring a prosecution against those responsible for exploiting the victim.
What happens to people who are convicted of modern slavery offences?
Under UK legislation, all modern slavery offences are punishable by a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Where victims of modern slavery have been forced into committing a crime by their ‘masters’, UK law provides that those victims may have a defence against prosecution.
To help you raise awareness among your community about modern slavery and how to spot the signs, we’ve compiled a range of free campaign materials that you can use to educate and inform people in your neighbourhood.
Click here to access this Toolkit.