Modern Slavery & Trafficking

Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.

Victims of modern slavery may be;

  • forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;
  • owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
  • dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
  • physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement

Although many people think of modern slavery and human trafficking as only affecting adults, it affects children as well.  Both adults and children can be recruited, moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold.  Victims are often subject to multiple forms of exploitation. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 provides legal protection and support to victims and covers two offences – i) human trafficking and ii) forced labour and servitude.

Children do not have to prove that they have been coerced or persuaded in order to be a victim of modern slavery, i.e. a child’s consent to being trafficked is irrelevant and it is not necessary to prove coercion or any other inducement for there to be an offence.  This includes their engagement in criminal activity.

It is also not just about trafficking adults and children across national borders, human trafficking can take place anywhere. The Government estimates that there are tens of thousands people in modern slavery in the UK.

Children are trafficked for;

  • child sexual exploitation
  • benefit fraud
  • forced marriage
  • domestic servitude such as cleaning, childcare, cooking
  • forced labour in factories or agriculture
  • criminal activity such as pickpocketing, begging, transporting drugs, working on cannabis farms, selling pirated DVDs and bag theft

Many children are trafficked into the UK from abroad, but children can also be trafficked from one part of the UK to another.

Public authorities have a duty under the Act to notify the Home Office when they come across potential victims of modern slavery and people trafficking.

Further information

Useful links and publications

Modern Slavery Awareness Booklet

The Home Office has published a guidance on modern slavery to help public sector workers who may not routinely come across modern slavery to recognise the signs and respond appropriately.  The guide includes information on: legislation; the types of modern slavery; victims; and signs to look out for. Modern Slavery Guidancethis external link will open in a new window