There are five main types of exploitation that victims of modern slavery may experience:

  1. Labour exploitation: victims are forced to work for nothing, low wages or a wage that is kept by their owner; work is involuntary, forced and/or under the threat of a penalty, and the working conditions can be poor. Certain industries and workplaces are at higher risk of being involved in modern slavery, including:
  • Construction (building sites)
  • hand car washes
  • nail bars
  • Hospitality (cafes, restaurants, hotels)
  • Agriculture (vegetable and fruit growing, flower picking, farming, chicken farms, cannabis growing)
  • Manufacturing (factories)
  • sex work (brothels)
  • domestic work (cleaning, cooking, childcare, looking after elderly family members
  1. Sexual exploitation: victims are exploited through non-consensual abuse or another person’s sexuality for the purpose of sexual gratification, financial gain, personal benefit or advantage, or any other non-legitimate purpose
  2. Domestic servitude: victims are domestic workers who perform a range of household tasks (for example, cooking and cleaning); some live with their employers and have low pay, if any at all
  3. Criminal exploitation: victims are forced to work under the control of criminals in activities such as forced begging, shoplifting, pickpocketing, cannabis cultivation, drug dealing and financial exploitation
  4. Organ harvesting: living or deceased victims are recruited, transported or transferred, by threat or force for money, for their organs

You probably see people trapped in slavery on a regular basis without realising it. It could be someone working in a private home on your street, the man working in the hand car wash in town, or the nail technician in the window you pass by. It is a crime that still goes largely undetected, because it can be difficult to spot the signs, and people are not looking out for it, don’t know what to look out for or don’t think it happens in their area. 

Some victims may not recognise themselves as a victim. They may genuinely believe that their ‘boss’ is looking after them.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is the ‘recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by means of threat, or use of force, coercion or deception…to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation’.

Human trafficking is one of the methods used to facilitate modern slavery, often by serious organised crime gangs, but not all victims of modern slavery have necessarily been trafficked.

There are several common MYTHS about human trafficking. The charity, Unseen, address some of them:

Myth #1: Trafficking only affects foreigners

Wrong. In fact, more than a quarter of all victims of trafficking found in the UK last year were British (26%), making this the most common victim nationality, followed by Albanian (16%) and Vietnamese (8%). British people are trafficked in many ways. These could include:

  • Homeless people offered jobs that turn out to come with threats and without pay
  • Teenagers groomed by gangs into criminal acts such as shoplifting
  • Young people and adults coerced or manipulated to act as drug couriers or dealers
  • Girls and women forced into prostitution by abusive partners or by organised criminals
  • County lines is when gangs and drug dealers use children to transport and sell drugs across the country, using "county line" mobile phone numbers for different regions.

All of the above and more would involve trafficking.

Myth #2: Humn trafficking involves crossing an international border.

Wrong. Human trafficking means moving someone by means such as force, fraud, coercion or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. It is a form of modern slavery. You don't have to cross an international border, and much trafficking takes place within countries. It could refer to county lines. It could even mean taking someone just next door.

Myth #3: Forced labour isn't a big money-maker.

Wrong. Forced labour is huge business. An ILO study estimated that forced labour generates annual profits of over US$150 billion, which is as much as the combined profits of the four most profitable companies in the world.