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Hope for Justice convenes major anti-trafficking event at U.S. Senate

Hope for Justice was delighted to convene the 3rd Anti Trafficking In Persons Policy Leader Roundtable, held in the US Senate on Wednesday. Hope for Justice CEO Tim Nelson FRSA welcomed 40 organizations, 4 Members of Congress and 13 Congressional offices.

Special thanks to Congressman Chris Smith, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Senator Marsha Blackburn and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto for their leadership on important anti-trafficking legislation and sharing with the group about their important efforts and how they can get involved in advocacy. We also want to shout out Hon. Tanya Gould and John Richmond U.S. Ambassador (ret.) for their continuing leadership in the anti-trafficking space, and Anne Basham for helping to convene and manage the entire event.

It was an occasion for senior leaders across the United States anti-trafficking movement to strategize about policy and legislation including the REPORT Act, Trafficking Victims Protection Act reauthorization, The Jimmy Deal Act, No Trafficking in School Zones Act, STOP CSAM, and The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act.

It was an honor to be in-person with:

Hope for Justice CEO, Tim Nelson, said after the event: “So grateful that Hope for Justice hosted a gathering of 42 of the largest anti-slavery NGOs in Washington DC today. Thank you so much all of our supporters who have made this possible, on behalf of Hope for Justice and Slave-Free Alliance.”

Volunteer in Ethiopia identifies six child exploitation victims in her community

A trained volunteer for Hope for Justice in Ethiopia who is part of our Community Prevention initiatives in the country has recently identified six separate children in her area who were being exploited and abused.

Just two days ago, Aster – who lives in Hadiya Zone south-west of Addis Ababa and who has full training in safeguarding, child protection and anti-trafficking – was responsible for identifying a vulnerable 10-year-old child she found crying on a nearby main road.

She discovered that the child had been groomed and trafficked into domestic servitude in the community, having grown up a long way away. Aster reported the situation to the authorities, but as there was no emergency shelter and it was late, she made the decision to look after the girl in her own home overnight, then referred her to the local Women and Children’s Bureau for reintegration with her family.

Over the past few months, Aster has similarly identified a further five children who were facing exploitation and abuse, including cases of human trafficking.

A member of the Hope for Justice team praised her vigilance and hard work, and said: “Because of Aster’s training by our staff on child rights, exploitation and safeguarding, she has been able to positively address these protection issues in her community.”

Aster shares her experiences with Mussie, Hope for Justice’s project manager in Hadiya zone.

Aster is a leader at a ‘cluster level association’ (CLA), which represents multiple Self-Help Groups in a certain region, each of which elects a representative to attend the CLA.

Aster is from Hadiya zoneHope for Justice Self-Help Groups are made up of fixed group of participants (usually women) who meet weekly and are financially and socially empowered through pooled savings and loans, training in effective parenting, child protection, anti-trafficking, communication and other skills. A variation on this approach is the fixed-term Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) for areas where populations move around a lot, such as urban slums. Hope for Justice CLA members and community facilitators often sit on local Child Rights Councils across Ethiopia, to which we then also provide training and capacity-building.

Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery: Common Misconceptions

Modern slavery is a major injustice in our world. Due to the hidden nature of modern slavery, it can be incredibly hard to identify and quantify. Yet, it is estimated that almost 50 million[1] people are trapped in modern slavery today. This is an increase of almost 10 million more people in the last 5 years.

Criminals make over £193 billion each year from modern slavery, that’s over £5,500 every second. The last in-depth study suggested criminals rake in $150bn a year from this horrific trade, exploiting humans as commodities. But that study was nearly 10 years ago, and Hope for Justice estimates that with inflation and the rising number of people in modern slavery, the figure today is likely to be closer to $245bn – that’s over $7,500 every second.[2]

There are many misconceptions surrounding trafficking that influence policy and redirect the focus away from where it ought to be. By educating ourselves on the real causes and indicators of human trafficking and modern slavery, we can start to create actionable and sustainable change.

Misconception #1: Modern slavery and human trafficking are the same thing.

These terms are often conflated or assumed to be synonyms, but there are some distinctions to be aware of between human trafficking and modern slavery.

According to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), human trafficking is “the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud or deception for the purpose of exploitation”.[3]

Modern slavery is where one person controls another for profit by exploiting a vulnerability. The victim can be forced to work or exploited sexually. This control can be physical, financial or psychological. Modern slavery is used internationally and in many legal jurisdictions as an umbrella term covering all forms of slavery, servitude, human trafficking and related exploitation, including forced labour, debt bondage, forced child labour, forced marriage, and commercial sexual exploitation.

Under international conventions, for human trafficking to be present, all three of these elements must exist:

  • The Act is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people.
  • The Means can be through threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability.
  • The Purpose is for exploitation.

For modern slavery, only two of these elements need to be present, the means and the purpose.[4]

Misconception #2: You can consent to being trafficked.

You cannot ever consent to being exploited or trafficked. According to the UN Trafficking in Persons Protocol, “the consent of the victim to the exploitation is irrelevant when the threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, abuse of power or position of vulnerability is used”.[5] Even if someone initially consented to providing labour, services, or commercial sex acts, they may still be a victim of trafficking if this situation becomes exploitative. It is the behaviour of the trafficker, not the victim, which makes the difference – if force, fraud, or coercion is used at any point in order to exploit someone, then it counts as human trafficking.

This is extremely important to reduce the levels of victim-blaming that still unfortunately exist.

Misconception #3: Human trafficking must involve crossing across borders.

People smuggling and human trafficking are sometimes used interchangeably in media and political discussions or seen as synonymous.[6]

Trafficking can sometimes involve or begin as consensual smuggling across a border. The crime of trafficking occurs if something happens for the purpose of exploitation, using one of the means described above. This might happen before, during or after the actual border crossing.

Some other differences to note are that people smuggling usually involves illegal (false or stolen) documents; it is voluntary; the commodity involved is the service of being moved across a border; it is a crime against the state; and it always involves illegal border crossing.

By contrast, human trafficking can involve legal or illegal documents, or documents being taken; it involves coercion and often repeated exploitation; the commodity involved is the individual themselves; it is a crime against an individual; and it can involve legal, illegal or no border crossing. In human trafficking cases, victims may be moved hundreds or thousands of miles away, or they may be exploited in their own neighbourhood. Even if someone is made to go from one hotel room to another, if force, fraud, or coercion is used at any point, then it counts as trafficking. Exploitation or coercion are the defining aspects of human trafficking, not the amount of distance travelled.[7]

Misconception #4: Victims of modern slavery are always physically held against their will.

When hearing the words slavery and human trafficking, some people imagine chains and locked doors. While this does occasionally happen, it is rare. Control is far more commonly established through psychological and financial control, forms of indoctrination, and more subtle forms of manipulation and threats.

Not all victims of trafficking are physically held captive, but that doesn’t mean escaping is any easier. Traffickers use methods that are both seen and unseen.

Some perpetrators use drugs or alcohol to control their victims, while others implicate them in criminal activities (including commercial sex or drugs) and threaten to report them to the police or immigration if they try to leave. Threats of violence against the victim or their family are also used to keep a victim in a state of fear. Many feel ashamed or helpless, distrustful of the authorities and unaware of what help might be out there for them. Traffickers commonly use debt bondage, using real or inflated debts or a sense of financial or emotional obligation to keep their victims under their control.

Anyone from any walk of life can be targeted and can end up as a victim of modern slavery, but traffickers usually focus on those easiest to exploit, which tends to be people with fewer resources, networks of family/friends, or who have existing vulnerabilities. This is why being able to recognise the signs of human trafficking is so important, so we can reach out to someone who may be too afraid to come forward.[8]

Misconception #5: Sex trafficking is the only form of human trafficking.

Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking and modern slavery, but it is not the only one or the most common globally. Some of the most common forms are: forced labour, sex exploitation, debt bondage, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation, forced marriage and use of child soldiers.

Of the 49.6 million people estimated to be in modern slavery:

  • 19.9 million people in forced labour in private or state-run companies, or criminal exploitation
  • 1.4 million people experiencing domestic servitude in private homes
  • 6.3 million people in forced sexual exploitation (including 1.7 million children)
  • 21.9 million people in a forced marriage to which they had not consented

Misconception #6: Only women can be a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery.

Men, women and children of all ages from all backgrounds can become victims of human trafficking, and this occurs across the world.

Women and girls make up 54% of all victims worldwide and are 78% of victims of forced commercial sexual exploitation,[9] and so are disproportionally affected. Almost 27 million women and more than 12 million children are estimated to be in modern slavery today. However, men are also at risk of trafficking; over 22.8 million victims of modern slavery are men, and even more male victims are likely to be hidden away, uncounted.

Victims of modern slavery can be any age, nationality or gender, and come from any ethnic or socioeconomic background. Nevertheless, some groups and individuals are more vulnerable than others including those living in extreme poverty, those in politically and economically unstable environments, and those who are marginalised or isolated, those with a disability or mental health issue, or those who lack a stable living environment or family support.

Both modern slavery and human trafficking are horrific crimes, and they exist in almost every region of the world. Understanding the true nature of human trafficking and modern slavery makes us all more able to take effective action to tackle these crimes, and eventually to end slavery for good.

Learn more about what you can do to help: 

Hope for Justice co-curates World Economic Forum’s newest Transformation Map

Hope for Justice is proud to have contributed our expertise to the World Economic Forum’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking ‘Transformation Map’ as co-curators.

The map is a fantastic introduction to the topic, and explores eight of the most important aspects of modern slavery and human trafficking in our world today:

Transformation Maps are the World Economic Forum’s dynamic knowledge tool, allowing people to explore and make sense of complex and interlinked forces that are transforming economies, industries and global issues, helping in turn to support more informed decision-making by leaders. Modern slavery and human trafficking are pervasive, compound problems facing our society, and it is our privilege to be able to contribute to the growing repository of knowledge in this area.

The map also illustrates, in a visual and interactive way, how some of the most important aspects of modern slavery and human trafficking link to other issues (each of which has their own Transformation Map), including topics like the Illicit Economy, Inequality, Corruption, Trade and Investment, Supply Chains, Mental Health, Human Rights, ESG (environmental, social and governance issues for businesses), and Migration.

Access the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Transformation Map for free at:

Threatened with a hammer for daring to speak up against his trafficker

Andrius* had a difficult and disrupted childhood, surrounded by alcoholism, violence and, sadly, suicide. He ended up in the care system in his home country in the Baltics.

A flatmate, someone he thought of as a friend, moved to the UK and then urged Andrius to come over and join him, promising a good job paying £300 a week, free accommodation and food. He even arranged his minibus travel.

The reality was grimly different. Andrius was made to work 50-60 hour weeks delivering charity leaflets and collection bags. He did not control his own wages – they were paid to his ‘friend’ who then gave him occasional cash handouts, with deductions made for travel and other things – despite the initial promise that these would be free for Andrius.

He had to sleep on the floor in a filthy house. It was completely different to what he had been promised and what he had imagined, and he made clear he would never have come if he had known the truth.

He tried to stand up for himself, but things kept getting worse – he was told he owed more money, that he needed to pay for drugs and alcohol that his friend had bought that Andrius didn’t even want, and then he started to be locked in the house or told he couldn’t leave. He was threatened, sometimes even with a hammer. He felt controlled, exploited and intimidated. He had no phone and didn’t know how to get help, as he felt too embarrassed to share the truth with any of the other workers.

One of the reasons he tried to put up with situation at first was his fear of ending up homeless, but as things got worse, he realised even this would be preferable to what he was enduring.

So when he managed to escape one day, he ended up on the streets for a few weeks. This was when one of Hope for Justice’s charity partners discovered him and contacted us, having spotted the signs of trafficking. The charity workers had previously received Hope for Justice training, so they knew what to look out for.

Andrius struggled to trust anyone or to disclose what happened to him. He was frightened and in a bad way physically and emotionally, with ripped and torn clothes and shoes, and barely any possessions.

Hope for Justice’s West Yorkshire Hub and our partners explained the support he could receive, as well as helping him with essentials like food and emergency accommodation.

He wanted to report his case to the police and consented to be referred into the National Referral Mechanism for safe house support, but unfortunately at first received a ‘negative’ decision.

Our team believed what Andrius told us, and so we worked to overturn this decision. With additional evidence and clarifications, fortunately this was successful – he received a positive decision, entitling him to safe house support while the authorities assess his case ahead of an eventual ‘conclusive grounds’ decision about what happened to him.

Andrius has said how thankful he is for all our help, and for the support he is receiving at the safe house, where our team have been visiting him and helping him with supermarket vouchers.

*Name and image changed to protect identity

Trafficked teenager locked inside a property for more than a year

A Vietnamese teenager seeking work abroad to fund a surgical operation for his mother was instead trafficked for forced labour and criminal exploitation, and sexually assaulted by those who were controlling him.

Quoc* was told that he would be working on farms and be able to send good money home. But instead when he arrived in the UK on a fake passport the traffickers gave him, he was picked up and then locked inside a property. He was made to cultivate cannabis by three men he didn’t know.

Quoc was trapped in this nightmare for more than a year, until one day he was suddenly brought out the property and put in a car. This is when he took his chance. When the men stopped for petrol, he managed to run away after pretending to need the toilet. He eventually found a police station and reported what happened to him.

He was referred into the National Referral Mechanism by the police and assisted by the local council’s children’s trust and Barnardo’s charity until he turned 18, when he was referred to Hope for Justice. While the police investigation could not locate the perpetrators, our Independent Modern Slavery Advocacy (IMSA) team were able to help Quoc by liaising with a vast range of professionals and organisations to ensure his case was not forgotten and did not slip through the cracks. We kept pushing to ensure his application for asylum was heard, to bring stability to his life and help him to move on.

Our IMSA who has been supporting Quoc said: “He was very anxious about his asylum case while he was waiting for a decision. He struggled to look forward to the future and felt stuck – he could not work, claim benefits nor move towards living more independently while he was waiting. His mental health was suffering and he rarely went outside.”

Thankfully, in May 2023, he finally found out his application was successful and that he was granted refugee status. This lasts five years, after which he can apply to stay in the UK indefinitely, if it is still too dangerous for him to return to Vietnam.

Quoc said: “My future is very promising and very bright, because this country is a civilised country and also very compassionate about victims like me. It is very supportive. I hope to be a good citizen.”

He thanked the team at Hope for Justice for the help he has received, saying: “This charity has been very helpful to me. Whatever I need, they have been there for me. They have helped me deal with the Home Office and asylum process. They got me a solicitor. They have always been there when I did not have a clue about this new environment that I’m in.”

He chose to share his story in the hope that others will know not to believe promises they are told by those promising to find them work abroad, and so that others who have suffered like he has might have a chance at a brighter future too.

*Name changed and image posed, to protect survivor’s identity. Image is from the series Invisible People © Rory Carnegie for National Crime Agency

How much money is made by human trafficking and modern slavery?

Modern slavery is one of the most profitable global illicit businesses. Millions of people are sexually exploited for profit or forced to work in the supply chains of products and services around the world.

The previous estimate of the profits of modern slavery

For many years and to this date, most sources have indicated that the modern slavery ‘business’ generated annual profits worth at least US$150 billion. This estimate was made by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2014, based on 2012 data.[1] It considered profits generated by forced sexual exploitation, domestic work, forced labour in agriculture and other economic activities. It excluded forced marriage.

The 2014 ILO study suggested that commercial sexual exploitation generates US$99bn a year, and the remaining US$51 billion came from forced labour in the private sector, including domestic work, farming, mining, fishing, construction, logging and other parts of the global supply chain.

It was itself an update of a 2005 ILO estimate of the global profits made using forced labour and sexual exploitation, of at least US$44 billion.

Our updated estimate

At Hope for Justice, we estimate that modern slavery and human trafficking generate illicit profits of well over US$245 billion every year (excluding forced marriage). This new estimate takes into account:

  1. The updated estimate (published in 2022) of 23.6 million people in forced labour in the private sector or forced sexual exploitation (out of 49.6 million people trapped in any form of modern slavery).[2] The previous 2014 estimate on profit from forced labour and sexual exploitation was based on an estimated 18.7 million people trapped in these circumstances.
  2. US$ inflation rates from 2012 to 2021 (equating to 22.1%).[3]

Our new estimate of profits from modern slavery of US$245 billion a year is equivalent to at least 0.26% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP).[4]

This estimate is as of 2021, the most recent year for which we have global modern slavery estimates. It is also by its nature extremely conservative. Like any other illicit business, there is a lot of profit that goes unreported and unexamined. It is based on forced labour in the private sector and sexual exploitation, but doesn’t include equivalent ‘profits’ made by state-imposed forced labour or those derived from forced marriage, which affects more than 22 million people (equating to around 44% of all global cases of modern slavery).

Illicit profits breakdown

  • US$169.9 billion from sexual exploitation
  • US$75.9 billion from forced labour in the private sector, including domestic servitude
  • TOTAL = US$245.81 billion

[1] ILO, Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, May 2014, Report: Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour ( assessed on 20 July, 2023.

[2] International Labour Organization (ILO), Walk Free, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Global Slavery Estimates of Modern Slavery, accessed on 19 July 2023. The remaining 22 million people were trapped in forced marriage. Using 2021 data.

[3] US Bureaux of Labor Statistics CPI inflation calculator (2012-2023), accessed on 20 July 2023. The 2014 estimates used 2012 data; The 2023 estimates used 2021 data.

[4] World Bank, 2021 Gross World Product, accessed on 20 July 2023.

    14-year-old emotionally reunited with family who searched for him for seven months

    A boy in Ethiopia who was trafficked has been reunited with his parents, thanks to the support of our Lighthouse team.

    Yohannes*, a 14-year-old from a small town in southeastern Ethiopia, had been tricked into travelling to Addis Ababa, the capital city, on the promise that he could start his business there. A man paid for Yohannes’ transportation costs and told a bus driver to transfer him to another person when he arrived in the capital. But Yohannes shouted for help and the police intervened.

    After spending time with another civil society organisation focused on children’s wellbeing, Yohannes was then referred to Hope for Justice’s Canaan Lighthouse, one of our safe shelters for children who have faced or are at risk of exploitation and trafficking.

    Our Lighthouse team assessed and supported Yohannes’ wellbeing with holistic services and then worked to trace his family. After assessing that it was safe for Yohannes to return, and that there was a low risk of re-trafficking or re-exploitation, our team travelled over 500km to Ginir to support Yohannes’ reunification with his family.

    Incredibly, Yohannes’ family had been searching for over seven months for him in different cities and were overjoyed to see him again. Upon seeing him, Yohannes’ mother ran to the church to thank God before she hugged and kissed her son.

    “I was searching for him for the last seven months in Addis Ababa, Hawassa [and other cities], but I couldn’t find him. Now, Hope for Justice brought my child home and I’m able to see him again. I believe it is the answer to my prayers.”

    Yohannes’ mother

    Yohannes’ neighbours, relatives and staff from the Bureau of Women & Children Affairs (BoWCA) were all there to celebrate his return.

    During the reintegration process, Hope for Justice also had discussions with village residents, the BoWCA, police and Gadas, a local democratic system of governance in Ethiopia, to spread awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery within the community.

    *Name changed to protect identity

    Alumu’s story

    A 16-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her uncle has found a place to call home, after her community sadly shunned her for exposing his crimes to the world.

    Alumu’s* uncle was abusing her trust in him, and exploiting her repeatedly for sex. She understood that what was being done to her was wrong and a violation, and she bravely reported it.

    Thankfully, the police intervened and he was arrested.

    Alumu was referred to a Hope for Justice Lighthouse for care and protection in 2022. She received trauma-informed care services including psychosocial support, business skills training, life skills and healthcare information, as well as education on human trafficking. She also began vocational training with a partner organisation, to pursue her passion in tailoring.

    When the social workers spoke with her family, some relatives made it clear the young girl was not welcome home. They couldn’t understand why she would report her uncle and believed she ought to have stayed quiet. Hope for Justice realized it might no longer be safe for her there, and in May 2023 she was reintegrated to live with her stepmother instead. She is now a self-employed tailor and still living with her stepmother.

    During a follow-up visit in June 2023, they were provided support with income-generation activities, to improve their financial stability and resilience. Alumu aspires to expand her business and buy the land for them to have their own house.

    *Name and image changed to protect survivor’s identity

    Daniel’s story

    Daniel* and his family arrived in the UK from South America with the promise of work and a better life. Sadly, Daniel soon realised it was all a lie.

    Daniel was put to work for a popular food delivery service with no control or access to his wages. He was abused by his perpetrator, who would threaten his family if he didn’t work.

    “We are very grateful for Hope for Justice, and we are thankful they supported us in some of the hardest times of their lives and didn’t give up on us when we had nowhere to go.”


    After several months of living in constant fear, Daniel bravely disclosed his situation to the person from whom he rented a caravan, and the police intervened. Daniel was referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) as a potential victim of human trafficking but, despite the NRM provider’s attempt, they received a negative reasonable grounds decision and the family became homeless.

    They were left on the street during the winter, with temperatures often below freezing, without any support.

    A charity in the area contacted Hope for Justice that same night and asked for support. We assisted the family with accessing emergency accommodation and were able to house them immediately.

    Daniel and his family were extremely vulnerable. They didn’t speak any English and feared being deported due to not having valid visas. They also feared for their safety after receiving the news that a close family member had been killed in their home country, which they were scared was linked to Daniel having escaped and spoken to the police.

    The Hope for Justice team got to work gathering further evidence to submit a reconsideration request and getting Daniel’s family necessities like food vouchers, phone access and legal advice.

    After six long weeks, the original NRM decision was overturned and our teams were able to advocate for Daniel* and his family to access further support including legal aid for their asylum case.

    The family were overjoyed when they received the great news of the positive decision. Daniel said: “We are very grateful for Hope for Justice, and we are thankful they supported us in some of the hardest times of their lives and didn’t give up on us when we had nowhere to go.”

    He explained: “Sometimes people have a blindfold on their eyes and can’t see the truth what is happening. But I want to encourage them to take their blindfold off, to end their fear and have the courage to seek out for help.”

    Daniel said he wanted to share his story in order to “inspire other people to do the same so they can receive the help they need to change their lives”.

    *Name and nationality changed to protect survivor’s identity

    young girl