What is Modern Slavery?
At any given time in 2016, an estimated 40.3 million people were living in slavery. This means there are 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world. They work in brothels, in sweatshops and on street corners across the world, often much closer to home than we think.
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. Slavery violates human rights, denying people of their right to life, freedom and security.
Modern Slavery in the UK
In 2017, 5,145 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 35% rise from 2016. British nationals made up the highest number of cases for the first time, followed by people from Albania and Vietnam.
In 2016, 3,805 potential victims from 108 different countries were referred into the National Referral Mechanism. Among potential adult victims, the most common reported exploitation type was labour exploitation (44%) followed by sexual exploitation (37%).
In reality, however, the extent of slavery and trafficking in the UK is likely to be far greater than the NRM statistics would suggest. In 2013 The Home Office has estimated in its Modern Slavery Strategy that there may be as many as 13,000 people held in 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.
Sources and resources
- Home Office: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/how-to-report-modern-slavery/how-to-report-modern-slavery
- International Labour Organization: http://www.ilo.org/global/topics/forced-labour/lang–en/index.htm
- UK Government: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/638369/What_is_Modern_Slavery_NCA_v1.pdf
- National Crime Agency: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/specialist-capabilities/uk-human-trafficking-centre
- Unseen: https://www.unseenuk.org/modern-slavery/modern-slavery
- Human Trafficking Foundation: http://www.humantraffickingfoundation.org/