What is Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery? 


Human trafficking is the modern-day form of slavery. It is the illegal trade of human beings: children, women and men from across the world are held, transported, boughtsold and forced into activity against their will. 


I thought slavery was a thing of the past... 

Slavery is something we think of as a terrifying and inhumane crime, but one that sits very much in the history books. However, this is simply not the case; there are more slaves globally right now than there have been at any point in history.  

It is a sobering and terrifying statistic. 


What is human trafficking? 

It consists of three key stages, all of which are part of the criminal act of human trafficking: 

  • Recruitment: the identification of vulnerable people to trade 
  • Transportation: transferring victims to a new area or country 
  • Receiving: payment made to receive a person 

There are numerous ways in which people become trapped in trafficking and slaveryjust a few of which are: 

  • AbductionSome people are abducted and taken away from their home, friends and family. In Sofia'case she was drugged and, while in that vulnerable state, exploited 
  • Fraud or deception: Some victims, like Eva, are tricked into isolating themselves, only realising too late that they put their trust in the wrong person. Similarly, there is a common issue around people smugglers; some victims, having put their trust in the smugglers to get them to safety as they flee danger, have their documents taken from them and end up being sold into exploitation or told they are in debt bondage.  
  • Abuse of power: There are many different ways in which power might be abused to exploit others, but one such case is Gracewhose parents sold her into slavery via forced marriage.  
  • Coercion: Usually by means of threat or force, many victims are coerced into exploitation. This is likely to be an aspect present in most trafficking cases, if not to recruit people, then certainly to prevent them trying to escape.  

It’s important to realise that, in the UK, it is not just people transported into the country who are at risk. It is becoming increasingly common for UK nationals to be victims of slavery, mainly due to young people being recruited into County Lines gangs.  


What are the different types of slavery? 

There are many forms of exploitation into which people can be trafficked and held in slavery. This list is by no means exhaustive, but will give you an idea of some of the common ways in which slaves are exploited: 

  • Forced labour: victims are forced to work, often excessively long hours for little or no pay, for the financial gain of their trafficker. Common examples of forced labour are on farms, in nail bars, in car washes, in construction and in manufacturing. It’s perfectly plausible that you have bought a service or product that involved forced labour at some point along the supply chain. 
  • Sexual exploitation: victims are forced into prostitution 
  • Domestic servitude: victims are trapped in the house and forced to undertake all the domestic tasks for the household. 
  • Forced marriage: many young women across the globe are sold to the highest bidder for marriage. 
  • Forced criminality: some traffickers may use their victims to undertake criminal activity. If caught, they become the scapegoat and be prosecuted for crimes they committed under duress. 
  • Child soldiers: in some instances, children are recruited to become child soldiers and used in combat. 
  • Organ harvesting: some victims are used purely for organ removal, which can then be sold on the black market. 


What can I do about modern slavery? 

The first thing is to realise that modern slavery happens in every part of the UK, and the chances are that you have come across it without knowing. It is therefore important to remain vigilant and educate yourself on the key indicators that someone might be a victim (check out our blog How can victims of slavery be identified? for more on this).  

If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t and it is time to flag it with one of the below organisations. It is always better to flag a potential issue than to let it pass – innocent parties will be no worse off, but you could be saving the life of a victim by raising your concerns.  

If you think someone is a victim then you can contact one of the organisations below. If you believe that the individual is in immediate danger, call 999.