Someone is in slavery if they are forced to work, if they are owned or controlled by an employer, if they are dehumanised and treated as a commodity, or bought and sold as ‘property’, or if they are physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.
There is no ‘typical’ victim of modern slavery. Victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds. But it is normally more prevalent among the most vulnerable, and within minority or socially excluded groups. They are forced into a situation through the use or threat of violence, deception or coercion. Victims may enter the UK legally, or on forged documentation, or they may be a UK citizen living in the UK who is then forced into slavery.
Modern slavery covers a range of exploitation including; human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labour, debt bondage, domestic servitude, criminal activities, child labour, child sexual exploitation (CSE) and forced and early marriage.
Human trafficking is the illegal movement of people through force, fraud or deception, with the intention of exploiting them.
Warning signs to look out for include the following:
- Physical appearance: Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnurished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn
- Isolation: Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control or influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
- Poor living conditions: Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address
- Few or no personal effects: Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
- Restrictive Freedom of movement: Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents kept from them such as passports
- Unusual travel times: You may notice people being dropped off or collected for work on a regular basis, either very early or late at night
- Reluctant to seek help: Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons. They may believe they do not know who to trust or where to get help, fear deportation or violence to them or their family
If you think you or someone you know is a victim of modern slavery, you can report it to police online or call 101 (always call 999 in an emergency)