Modern slavery is an often unseen, or unrecognised, serious crime happening across the UK in which victims are exploited for someone else’s gain.

Modern slavery is an umbrella term encompassing slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.

Victims of modern slavery are unable to leave their situation of exploitation, and controlled by threats, punishment, violence, coercion, and deceptionSlavery violates human rights, denying people of their right to life, freedom, and security.

Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • forced to work through mental or physical threat
  • owned or controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
  • dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’
  • physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom

Modern slavery can happen ANYWHERE – cities, towns, villages, rural areas. It is present in every single area of the UK and is on the increase.

There is no typical victim of slavery. Modern slavery can affect ANYONE in society. Victims can be men, women and children of all ages and cut across the population, but it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups.

Perpetrators may be part of a large criminal organisation, a smaller operation, or lone offenders or families. Usually they are highly organised and adept at disguising their activities. They are often in significant positions of power over their victims but can make it appear that they are just accompanying or supporting them, rather than keeping them enslaved.


There were 7,779 modern slavery offences recorded by the police in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020, an increase of 59% from the previous year.

The real number of victims in the UK could be many times higher - the Global Slavery Index believes there are around 136,000 victims living in slavery in the UK.

Anti-slavery charity Unseen reveals a dramatic year-on-year increase in contacts to its Helpline, with the highest proportion of calls related to labour abuse:

  • More than 9,200 reports to the Unseen Helpline in 2019, an increase of 25% on the previous year
  • 49% of reports concerned labour exploitation, (a 33% increase from the previous year) with car washes being the most common followed by hospitality, construction  and beauty/spa
  • 16% of criminal exploitation cases indicated child involvement, up from 9% in 2018

Victims in the UK come from 85 nationalities. Top five nationalities of Potential Victims in the UK:

  • Romanian 
  • Vietnamese 
  • Albanian 
  • Chinese
  • English

Those we know about are just the tip of the iceberg - many victims never come forward to the authorities and continue to live miserable lives with no freedom or dignity.