Types of modern slavery
Scams and Older People
Child Sexual Exploitation
Loneliness and Vulnerability
Types of modern slavery
There are four broad ways in which perpetrators seek to exploit victims in the UK. Victims may experience more than one type at the same time.
The four broad categories are below – in each case the victim may or may not have been moved (trafficked), either from another country, or within the UK, in order to be exploited.
1. Labour exploitation
People in forced labour generally work long hours for no or very low pay, and usually in poor working conditions. If from overseas, they are often lured into the ‘employment’ by the promise of a genuine job and a better life, but when they arrive the situation is nothing like what was promised. They can’t leave because they have often built up heavy debts to their ‘employer’ – see ‘Debt bondage’ below. Forced labour accounts for around 30% of all modern slavery in Britain.
2. Domestic servitude
Domestic servitude typically involves victims working in a private family home where they are ill-treated, humiliated, subjected to unbearable conditions or working hours or made to work for little or no pay. The victim could be used in this way by their own family members or partner. Again, it is very difficult for them to leave, for example because of threats, the perpetrator holding their passport, or using a position of power over the victim.
3. Sexual exploitation
Victims are coerced into sex work or sexually abusive situations. This includes child sexual exploitation. Victims may be brought to the UK on the promise of legitimate employment, or moved around the UK to be sexually exploited. Victims are typically female but can also be male.
4. Criminal exploitation
Criminal exploitation is the exploitation of a person to commit a crime for someone else’s gain. For example, victims could be coerced into shoplifting, pick-pocketing, entering into a sham marriage, benefit fraud, begging or drug cultivation such as cannabis farming. A growing phenomenon is the use of children and young people to transport drugs and money between cities and rural areas on behalf of crime gangs, known as county lines. Police estimate there may be as many as 1,000 county lines operating across the UK.
Debt bondage can also be a significant factor in many forms of exploitation, and can take a range of forms.
Debts may arise out of the exploitation itself, for example in relation to accommodation or travel fees, with victims having little or no control over their debt and little or no way to pay it back. Costs may be deducted directly from their wages, leading to further debts. A person may be forced to work to pay off the debt and can become trapped.
The government has further categorised modern slavery offences into 17 distinct types, outlining the characteristics of the typical victims and offenders, and the nature of the offence, including the recruitment, transportation and exploitation involved. This can be read here.
How does it happen, and why don’t people just leave?
Many men and women are tricked into slavery. Typically, a person coming from a situation of poverty and lack of opportunity gets an offer of an apparently good job in the UK. Often the victim has to take a loan from an agent to pay for the recruitment fees and/or the journey. When they arrive in Britain, the job and the conditions they were promised are completely different. Their passport is taken away, and they’re told they need to pay off the debt before they can leave. Violence or threats are commonplace, both against the victim and against their family back home. If they want to find somewhere else to live, they are threatened with losing their jobs.
This animated film from the International Labour Organisation explains how workers can become trapped in forced labour situations.
Sometimes women are kidnapped and forced into prostitution; other women may be groomed by ‘boyfriends’ who build up a relationship with the woman for the sole purpose of using her.
Many children who end up in slavery are street children who are lured into slavery by traffickers claiming to offer them a better life; others are kidnapped. Sometimes parents even sell their children into slavery.
Illegal immigration is not the same thing
Where individuals agree to be brought to the UK illegally, but there is no intention to exploit or take advantage of them once they arrive, this is known as smuggling and is an immigration offence rather than modern slavery or human trafficking. These individuals are not victims, although they may be at greater risk of being exploited at a later date.