Modern slavery

Modern slavery is an international crime, affecting an estimated 29.8 million people around the world.  Anyone can be a victim.  It is not an issue confined to history or an issue that only exists in certain countries. It is something that is still happening today, and it happens here in the UK.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery can take many forms including forced labour, servitude and slavery.  It is usually, but not always, the end result of the trafficking of people.  See our page on human trafficking.

Types of modern slavery include:

  • sexual exploitation: victims forced to perform non-consensual or abusive sexual acts against their will.  This can include prostitution, escort work and pornography.
  • domestic servitude: victims forced to carry out housework and domestic chores in private households with little or no pay.  Their movement is restricted, they have limited or no free time and minimal privacy often sleeping where they work.
  • forced labour: victims forced to work against their will, often working long hours for little or no pay in dire conditions.  They can suffer verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families.
  • criminal exploitation: often controlled and maltreated, victims are forced into crimes such as cannabis cultivation or pick pocketing.

There is no typical victim of slavery.  Victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities. But it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, and within minority or socially excluded groups.

See this infographic for more details of modern slavery

Be aware of the signs

Signs of slavery are often hidden, making it even harder to recognise victims around us. Whilst not exhaustive, here is a list of some common signs which you can be aware of:

  • Physical appearance: victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse.  They may look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn.
  • Isolation: victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own or seem under the control and influence of others.  They may 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.  They may always wear the same clothes. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
  • Restricted freedom of movement: victims have little opportunity for free movement and may have had their travel documents retained.
  • Unusual travel times: they may be dropped off / 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.  They may 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.

Report it

If you think a person is in immediate danger, you should call us on 999.

If you suspect slavery is happening and there is no immediate threat to life, you can report it by calling the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.  Or complete this Modern Slavery Helpline online form

More help and support

Modern Slavery

Home Office
Resources, information and posters can be found on the Home Office Website


Salvation Army


Modern Slavery Advert

Watch the Modern Slavery television advert

28 May 21 11:50 AM

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