Human Trafficking - Can You Spot the Signs?

A 'victim' of trafficking

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery. It is where a person is brought to, or moved around the country by others who threaten, frighten, or hurt them and force them to do work or other things they don’t want to do.

Victims of human trafficking could be forced into performing work for little or no pay, have their passports taken from them, be physically and mentally abused, and may be forced to live in squalid, cramped conditions with other victims.

It’s important to know that trafficking isn’t just people being brought to the UK from other countries – trafficking can happen within our borders, wherever a person is moved or used through threats, deception, abduction or other means.

What are the signs?

It’s important to be aware of the warning signs of trafficking, as often the indicators of this type of abuse can be very subtle.

People who have been trafficked may:

  • Show signs of consistent abuse or have untreated health issues.
  • Have no identification documents in their personal possession, and little or no finances of their own.
  • Be unwilling to talk without a more ‘senior’, controlling person around who may act as their translator.
  • Sleep in a cramped, unhygienic room in a building that they are unable to freely leave.
  • Be unable to leave their place of work to find different employment, and fear that bad things may happen if they do.
  • Be charged for accommodation or transport by their employers as a condition of their employment, at an unrealistic and inflated cost which is deducted from their wages.

They may be forced to work in certain types of industries or activities, such as:

  • Factories, farms or fast food restaurants.
  • Domestic service, such as a cleaner or nanny.
  • Street crime, such as pickpocketing or robbery.
  • Services of a sexual nature.

The Home Office have produced a series of guides that outlines some of the signs to be aware of for particular industries, such as construction, manufacturing and agricultural. You can download these from the attachments section of this page.

Who do I contact if I suspect someone of being trafficked?

If you suspect someone of being a victim of trafficking, there are a number of ways you can get help for them:

  • Call us on our 101 non-emergency number, or if the person is in immediate danger or is under 18 then call 999 as a matter of urgency.
  • Contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or report it online.
  • Contact the Salvation Army’s 24-hour confidential referral helpline on 0300 3038151.

Do not attempt to raise the suspicions of the victim that you are aware of their situation or confront the traffickers, as the safety of the victim and the general public is paramount. Please call the numbers above if you have suspicions.

How do I get help?

If you feel you are in a situation where you are being exploited, there is help available.

  • Call our 101 non-emergency number. If you are in immediate danger then call 999. If you have trouble speaking English we have translators on standby that can help you explain your situation. We can offer you protection and investigate the people who have hurt you.
  • You can also call the Salvation Army at any time on 0300 3038151. They can offer help to find you some temporary shelter, food and medical treatment. They can also find someone to help talk to you about your situation.

Where Can I Find Out More?

We work closely with the Salvation Army to tackle human trafficking The Salvation Army work hard to protect and care for victims as well as providing legal advice, healthcare, counselling and educational opportunities.

Stop the Traffik works to prevent human trafficking in the UK by educating, informing and raising awareness. Their website is packed with useful information packs that can be downloaded, which are of particular use if you work in education, local authorities or other organisations where you may encounter trafficked victims.

Anti-Slavery Commissioner

The UK has an independent anti-slavery commissioner whose role is to encourage good practice in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences and in the identification of the victims of those offences.

The commissioner has produced a strategic plan which outlines how he intends to work with all the statutory agencies that have a duty to co-operate and how he will work with other non-governmental bodies.

Read the plan on the Government's website.

Do you need a quick answer to a general question? Then we recommend you visit the national Ask The Police web site.