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Modern slavery, in simple terms, is the exploitation of an individual by another person or group of people for the purposes of commercial or personal gain.

Each case of modern slavery can  be very different, but the most common types prevalent in the UK are sexual exploitation, forced or compulsory labour (including criminal exploitation) and domestic servitude. These types of crimes can be very much hidden and can be in all sorts of settings, such as factories, agriculture, nail bars, cannabis farms and even within people's homes. It affects people from all nationalities, backgrounds and cultures. 

Human Trafficking

Trafficking of people is a serious crime and a violation of Human Rights. A person is trafficked if they are brought to (or moved around) a country by others who threaten, frighten, hurt and force them to do work or other activities. Human trafficking can affect people of all ages, gender and race.

Modern Slavery

There are many different characteristics that distinguish slavery from other Human Rights violations, however only one needs to be present for slavery to exist. Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • Forced to work - through mental or physical threat

  • Owned or controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse

  • Dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as 'property'

  • Physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement.

Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, gender and races.

Modern slavery is illegal.

Organised Immigration Crime

Organised immigration crime can pose a real and significant risk to people who come to the UK illegally to seek a better life. The way in which they are transported across borders is inherently dangerous and puts their lives at risk, as we have seen in significant incidents across the UK. EMSOU is committed to working in partnership with our Immigration Enforcement colleagues in tackling illegal migration and disrupting the organised crime groups who facilitate it.

Examples of offences under the Immigration Act are:

  • Illegal entry, overstaying and/or a breach of condition of leave in the UK

  • Entering the UK in breach of a deportation order and/or obtaining or seeking to obtain leave by deception

  • Assisting unlawful immigration

  • False identity offences.

Landlords also have a responsibility under the Immigration Act to check that their tenants have the permission to live in the UK. If they are found to be renting to tenants who have no right to be here, they can be fined up to £3,000. Similarly, businesses have a duty to ensure their employees have a right to work in the UK and, if they employ someone who is subject to immigration control with no right to work, they can be fined up to £20,000 per person.

Signs to look out for

Suspicions may arise in a number of ways. Have you noticed any of the following at premises near to you?

  • Heavy presence of security personnel, be it a farm, factory or building site

  • Barred windows, locked doors or surveillance cameras

  • Does it look like people are working and living at the same place? Are the conditions cramped or overcrowded?

  • Are 'workers' collected very early and return late at night on a regular basis?

  • Are they being driven between premises?

  • Is there a lack of safety equipment or appropriate clothing?

  • Many victims may appear malnourished or show signs of bruises, other injury or their appearance may be unkempt

  • Victims may be isolated from the local community or under the control or influence of others.

What should you do if you suspect someone of being exploited?

For advice please contact the Modern Day Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700 or visit its website. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can report via Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 or submit information via its Anonymous Online Form.

Where can I find more information?

You can download a leaflet via the UK Government website, giving further information in the following languages: Albanian, Czech, English, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Ugandan, Mandarin, Polish, Romanian, Slovakian, Vietnamese, Yoruba.


Working towards a world without slavery. They offer specialist care to survivors by giving them a safe place to recover from trauma and rebuild their lives.



STOP THE TRAFFIK works inform and equip communities to; know what human trafficking is, know how to identify it and know how to respond appropriately if seen.



Protecting victims and targeting offenders - supporting a consistent and effective policing response to modern slavery and human trafficking. 

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