Slavery? In the UK? 

People Hand with Broken Chain
Image by Candide U from Pixabay
ViewsOctober 18th, 2022

Project Officer, Elinor Mattey, raises awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK in recognition of Anti-Slavery Day 2022.  

Slavery is a violation of fundamental human rights. It is a contemporary issue that is, according to the Coalition to Stop Slavery, ‘a crime hidden in plain sight.’ The reality of the situation is unfathomable, with estimates of 50 million people worldwide victim to modern slavery. It is on this basis that today, we highlight Anti-Slavery Day 2022; to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery. With the Home Office reporting a 20% increase of slavery from 2020 to 2021, and expert organisations estimating that there are over 100,000 victims in the UK. These issues do not only exist elsewhere in the world, but they are also here in the UK and in Wales. 

What is human trafficking? 

The charity, Anti-Slavery, defines human trafficking as ‘the process of trapping people through the use of violence, deception or coercion and exploiting them for financial or personal gain.’ It is not limited to international travel arrangements and includes internal trafficking within a country, region, or even a community. There is no ‘profile’ which makes a person susceptible to being trafficked. Victims are children and adults of all ages, different genders, nationalities, and ethnicities; sharing the common characteristic of vulnerability which makes them an easy target to traffickers.

What is modern slavery? 

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. The latter is defined by Wales Safer Communities as ‘the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain.’ Forced labour is often associated with overseas fast fashion manufacturing and sweatshops, but it touches a part of our everyday lives because the demand for cheap product and services corresponds to the supply of forced labour. Anti-Slavery report that victims of labour exploitation in the UK are often found in services such as carwashes, nail bars, hospitality bars, farms, manufacturing, and in construction, constituting the most prevalent form of exploitation in the UK.  

Women and girl’s victim to trafficking and modern slavery are more likely to experience sexual exploitation. Others are forced into a life of servitude which allows for abuse to easily take place. An increasing area of concern in the UK is the trafficking of children for the purposes of county lines. The NSPCC say that ‘county line gangs are highly organised criminal networks that use sophisticated, frequently evolving techniques to groom young people and evade capture from the police.’ Child slavery in county line gangs may include running drugs to urban areas, cannabis cultivation, street crime and sexual exploitation.  

These are violent and degrading industries, but modern slavery and human trafficking is not just abusive work conditions. Victims are often found in poor housing, which the National Crime Agency has described as ‘being held in squalor.’  Vulnerable people are subjected to crimes which do not discriminate, and result in dangerous working conditions. The common factor in every form of modern slavery is exploitation for the personal or financial gain of someone, at the expense of human dignity.  

What can you do?  

Here are some signs to be aware of if you suspect someone may be a victim of trafficking and modern slavery: 

  • Physical appearance (malnourished and unkept) 
  • Isolation  
  • Lack of personal identification  
  • Unaware of workplace/home address 
  • Reluctance to seek help  
  • Poor living conditions  
  • Unusual or restricted travel movements (controlled movements)  

 It is important that awareness is raised of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, because of how prevalent it is today and the implications it has on countless people, including children. If you think someone may be in slavery, call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.  


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