Modern Slavery

What is
Modern Slavery?

Modern slavery is where one person controls another for profit by exploiting a vulnerability. Usually the victim is forced to work or is sexually exploited, and the trafficker keeps all or nearly all of the money. The control can be physical, financial or psychological.

Modern Slavery Facts

  • £100 billion made each year from modern slavery, that’s over £3,300 every second i

  • 7 in every 10 victims worldwide are women and girls i

  • Many UK businesses have slavery in their supply chains without even knowing it i

  • Victims are told police are corrupt, and that seeking help leads to being deported i

  • There were 10,613 potential cases reported in the UK last year i

  • Traffickers make threats against victims' families, using fear and shame as weapons i

  • Human trafficking and people smuggling are different things i

Types of exploitation i



Vulnerable people, overwhelmingly women and girls, are tricked or forced into the sex trade. It often begins with a promise of good work in hospitality or modelling, or a 'boyfriend' is responsible.



This is when a person has no choice or control over their work, with the money they earn taken by someone else, who often also controls where they live and even who they can speak with.



A less common type of modern slavery, when a person is forced to cook, clean or do childcare for little or no pay, often living in the home with the 'employer' and not allowed to live their own life.



Victims are forced to grow or transport drugs, made to shoplift or pickpocket, are forced to beg on the streets, or used for fraud. The threat of being reported becomes another method of control.



More than 15 million people are thought to have been forced into a marriage without consent, nearly all of them women and girls, often to an older man in another region or country.

How many people are in modern slavery?

It is a hidden crime, but the best estimates suggest there are 49.6 million people in modern slavery of which: i


People in forced labour in private or state-run companies, or criminal exploitation


People experiencing domestic servitude in private homes


People in forced sexual exploitation (including 1.7 million children)


People in a forced marriage to which they had not consented

There are tens of thousands of victims in the UK. Some estimates suggest the number of people in modern slavery in the UK is up to 136,000. i

How do traffickers keep their victims under control? i

People are tricked or forced into exploitation and kept there through violence, fraud or coercion, and often end up living and working in abominable conditions.

Some are beaten and abused; others have threats made against their families in their home countries. Many are forced into fraudulent ‘debt bondage’, with their wages kept by a trafficker to pay non-existent bills for their travel, accommodation or food. They are told they will be deported if they go to the authorities.

Often, the trafficker takes control of a victim’s identity documents (e.g. passport). They accompany them to open a bank account, then take control of its associated bank card and correspondence (this functions both as a simple way for the trafficker to control the victim’s earnings, and a way for them to exert dominance and control by offering occasional small sums of money from what should be the victim’s own wages).

Traffickers usually focus on those easiest to exploit, which tends to be people with fewer resources or existing vulnerabilities.

Risk factors for trafficking i

Anyone from any walk of life can be targeted and can end up as a victim of modern slavery. But people experiencing any of the following things can be at particular risk:

Alcohol or drug addiction
Mental health problems
Chaotic home environment or recent family breakdown
Long-term unemployment
Learning difficulties
Debts or criminal convictions
Fearful of deportation or being discovered by authorities
Physical injuries or disabilities

Why don’t victims run away? i

The relationship between someone experiencing modern slavery and the person or group controlling them is complex. It is rare for the control to be based on physical confinement like locked doors or shackles. Instead, victims are exploited through manipulation, fear, dependency, threats or debt bondage.

This means that during the time they are actually in exploitation, few people think of themselves as being a 'victim'. They often describe feeling hopeless or having no options, or even feel a sense of obligation towards those who trafficked them. They do not understand their situation as being one that they could run away from or escape from.

For many, it is only once they get long-term help from a specialist organisation like Hope for Justice that they understand the extent of the exploitation and that a different life is possible, with the right support.

Help make a difference

Together we can help more of those who are trapped and alone