Modern Slavery is a serious and often hidden crime in which people are exploited for criminal gain. It comprises slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking.
The common factors are that a victim is, or is intended to be, used or exploited for someone else’s (usually financial) gain, without respect for their human rights.
For adult victims, there will be some element of coercion involved, such as threats, use of force, deception or abuse of power. Victims may appear to give consent, but in reality they have little ability to choose to leave the exploitative situation and the perpetrators have still committed a crime. Child victims and vulnerable adults are not able to give informed consent and therefore exploitation even without any element of coercion could constitute Modern Slavery.
Modern Slavery can take many forms, but there are four broad ways in which perpetrators can seek to exploit victims. In each case, the victim may or may not additionally have been moved (trafficked), either from another country, or within the UK, in order to be exploited:
Labour exploitation usually involves unacceptably low pay, poor working conditions or excessive wage deductions, but is not solely about this. In order to constitute modern slavery, there will also be some form of coercion meaning that victims cannot freely leave for other employment or exercise choice over their own situation. Where the perpetrator is taking advantage of a child or vulnerable person, an offence can be committed without the element of coercion.
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. 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.
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. In some cases they may know they will be involved in sex work, but are forced into a type or frequency they did not agree to. Victims are more commonly female but can also be male.
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.
Anyone can be a victim of Modern Slavery. Victims of Modern Slavery may not recognise themselves as having been trafficked or enslaved and may be reluctant to come forward with information. Source: Modern slavery awareness booklet - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
How to report
If you or anyone you know has become a victim of Modern Slavery, support is available. You can report this directly to the police by calling 999 in an emergency, or 101 for non-emergency enquiries. If it is not an emergency, you can also seek help from the Modern Slavery Helpline.
- Unseen: a UK charity which provides safehouses and support in the community for survivors of trafficking and Modern Slavery and runs the Modern Slavery Helpline.
- The Salvation Army: provides specialist support and care for adult survivors of Modern Slavery and also runs a referral helpline.
- Barnado’s National Counter Trafficking Centre: provides specialist support for child victims of human trafficking. Areas covered include London and Kent.