Modern Slavery in the UK

The UK is primarily a country of destination, with thousands of victims arriving from other countries only to be exploited by criminals. Slavery takes many different forms and affects adults and children, males and females.

Those who are enslaved are exploited for the financial gain of their captors. The vulnerable are made to work in cruel conditions for long hours without pay. Examples include women and girls forced into prostitution for profit, young boys made to commit criminal acts against their will and men kept in slave-like conditions in factories.

Last year there was a total of 3805 recorded victims of modern slavery in the UK, a 17% increase on the year before. Victims came from 108 different countries, with the top 3 being Albania, the UK and Vietnam (find out more on the Resources page).

In 2016 the most common types of exploitation for adults and children in the UK, where known, were labour exploitation and sexual exploitation. Individuals in the UK are exploited for labour in various places of work, from hotels to farms, boats to building sites and nail bars to cannabis factories. Labour exploitation spans the agricultural, hospitality, fishing and construction sector. In addition, people are exploited for sexual purposes, including forced prostitution, escort work and pornography.

Slave masters and human traffickers in the UK will coerce and control their victims, keeping them in slavery for weeks, months or years at a time. Individuals are often deceived into working in slave-like conditions, and then threatened in order to keep them there. Victims are moved from abuser to abuser and they are usually too afraid of their captors to risk escape, making slavery a hidden, complex crime.

For those victims who do escape or are rescued the UK has an established system of support, namely, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). This was introduced in 2009. The NRM provides accommodation and other vital services for victims for a minimum of 45 days (find out more on the Victim Identification and Care page).

Although modern slavery can involve the movement of people across an international border, it is also possible to be a victim within one’s own country; for example, last year the UK was in the top 3 countries of origin for all potential victims in the UK.

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