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Human trafficking: Do you know the signs?

Human trafficking is the illegal movement of people, typically for forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking happens here in the UK. It can be the trafficking of people into the UK, or the movement of people around the UK. Human trafficking is a gross violation of a person’s human rights; it is modern day slavery.

People are bought and sold, and forced to work in a variety of different industries. Some may be sexually exploited, or forced to work at car washes, nail salons and in factories. Others will be kept as domestic slaves, some will be forced into marriages and others will be trafficked for organ harvesting.

Victims can suffer from physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and rarely have access to an education or to health care.

The International Labout Organization estimates there are 21 million victims of force labour; 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million boys. (source: ILO)

It could be happening in your neighbourhood

The National Crime Agency shows that there were 370 cases of trafficking in persons in 2015/16 across the UK. This resulted in  295 prosecutions and 192 convictions. It is estimated that there are 13,000 victims in the UK.

It could be happening close to you, in your area or in your business.

What are the signs?

  1. Physical appearance
    Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished, unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
  1. Isolation
    Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.
  1. Poor living conditions
    Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address.
  1. Few or no personal effects
    Victims may have no identification documents, have few possessions and always wear the same clothes. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.
  1. Restricted freedom of movement
    Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, such as their passports. 
  1. Unusual travel times
    They may be dropped off / collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.
  1. Reluctant to seek help
    Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.

For more information about specific exploitation signs, visit our human trafficking pages.

Help victims of human trafficking and slavery

If you suspect human trafficking or slavery is happening near you, call 0800 0121 700 or visit the Modern Slavery website 

Report it to us on 101 (999 in an emergency) or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.