What is Modern Slavery 2020-07-21T17:27:56+00:00

What is Modern Slavery?

An estimated 40.3 million people are living in slavery globally. This means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world. There is no typical victim of slavery – victims are of all genders and all ages, ethnicities and nationalities.

Modern slavery is an umbrella term encompassing slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking. Victims of modern slavery are unable to leave their situation of exploitation – controlled by threats, punishment, violence, coercion and deception. They are commodified for the purpose of exploitation and financial gain. Slavery violates human rights, denying people of their right to life, freedom and security.

Modern Slavery in the UK

In 2019, 10,627 potential victims of trafficking and slavery were referred to the National Referral Mechanism, which identifies and supports victims. This was the highest number recorded by the UK authorities since the figures were first compiled in 2009 and a 52% increase from 2018. British nationals made up the highest number of cases (accounting for 27% of all potential victims), followed by people from Albania and Vietnam.

In reality, however, the extent of slavery and trafficking in the UK is likely to be far greater than the NRM statistics would suggest. The Global Slavery Index estimated there are 136,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK.

How do traffickers control their victims?

Modern slaves may not be physically trapped in shackles and chains but their traffickers are still able to manipulate and control them…  It is fear and desperation, not guns and chains, which keep people trapped in slavery today. This may include debt bondage, fear of deportation or threats to their family.

Who is vulnerable?

There is no typical victim of slavery – victims are of all genders and all ages, ethnicities and nationalities. However, it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, and within minority or socially excluded groups. Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers which contribute towards vulnerability.

What are some of the general indicators to look out for?

  • Behaviour: withdrawn, scared, not willing to talk
  • Appearance: unkempt, malnourished, few possessions, health concerns
  • Work: inappropriate clothing for the job, long hours, little or no pay
  • Fear of authorities: doesn’t want to speak to police or authorities
  • Debt bondage: in debt to, or dependent on someone else
  • Accommodation: overcrowded, poorly maintained, blacked-out windows
  • Lack of control: no ID, no access to a bank account, work transport provided
  • Lack of freedom: unable to move freely, unwilling or scared to leave
  • Children: alone, not related to adult carer, inappropriate behaviour or clothing

For a more detailed overview of the potential signs and indicators of modern slavery follow this link.

Sources and resources

If you suspect modern slavery, you can report it in a number of ways. Use the modern slavery website or call 0800 0121 700.

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