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Modern Slavery

What is Modern Slavery?

Modern Slavery is an overarching term that includes human trafficking, slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour, all of which involve some kind of exploitation.  Modern Slavery is about being exploited and completely controlled by someone else.

Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • forced to work – through coercion, or mental or physical threat;
  • owned or controlled by an ’employer’, through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse;
  • dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as ‘property’;
  • physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement:

Human trafficking is the recruitment, harbouring or transporting of people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and them being forced to work against their will.

The Context

Victims of Modern Slavery can be any age, gender, ethnicity or nationality. However, it is normally more prevalent among the most vulnerable and socially excluded groups in our society. Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions and economic imbalances all contribute to someone’s vulnerability in becoming a victim of modern slavery (Unseen UK). The Home Office reported that in England between 2015 and 2017 the most common countries of origin of victims were Albania, Vietnam and Nigeria (The Home Office 2018 UK Annual Report).

Indicators of Modern Slavery/Trafficking

You can look out for the following signs that someone may have been a victim of modern slavery or human trafficking:

  • Distrustful of authorities
  • Expression of fear or anxiety
  • Signs of psychological trauma (including post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • The person acts as if instructed by another
  • Injuries apparently a result of assault or controlling measures
  • Evidence of control over movement, either as an individual or as a group
  • Found in or connected to a type of location likely to be used for exploitation
  • Restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area
  • Passport or documents held by someone else
  • Lack of access to medical care
  • Limited social contact / isolation / contact with family
  • Signs of ritual abuse and witchcraft
  • Person forced, intimidated or coerced into providing services
  • Doesn’t know home or work address
  • Perception of being bonded by debt
  • Money is deducted from salary for food or accommodation
  • Threat of being handed over to authorities
  • Threats against the individual or their family members
  • Being placed in a dependency situation
  • No or limited access to bathroom or hygiene facilities


National Referral Mechanism

Local authorities, services and organisations have an important role in both preventing modern slavery, and identifying, supporting and safeguarding any potential victims. The framework for identifying and supporting victims of human trafficking or modern slavery in the UK is called the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Once you have identified someone as potentially being trafficked it is important to give them the time and necessary information to make an informed choice as to whether they want to be referred into the NRM, its implications and potential alternative forms of support (such as immigration applications/social care).

If a person consents then you should first refer the individual to a ‘first responder’, which can include the police and local authority. This can also be done by calling The Salvation Army’s referral number 0300 303 8151, although a full list can be found here: National Crime Agency: National Referral Mechanism.

If you encounter a potential victim and are unsure what to do you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 8700 (24h) or for information and advice. In the North West, the British Red Cross provide impartial and confidential advice and support to trafficked people at all stages and can be contacted on or 0151 702 5067. If the case is an emergency contact 999.

Housing, subsistence or outreach support is provided to people who receive a positive Reasonable Grounds decision (‘[they] suspect but cannot prove’ trafficking is present) within the NRM via the Salvation Army during a recovery and reflection period of at least 45 days. In the North West support is provided by City Hearts and can also include assistance accessing counselling, legal advice, education and training. If they receive a positive conclusive grounds decision they are entitled to further 14 days’ support, but extensions are considered on a discretionary basis by the Home Office. During this period, victims are expected to decide whether to return to their country of origin or apply for discretionary or other forms of leave to remain, which if successful will allow the person to have recourse to public funds. If the person receives a negative conclusive grounds decision, then their support will only continue for two days.

Further Resources

British Red Cross:

The Salvation Army: 0800 808 3733 and

Unseen: (24/7 helpline) 08000 121 700 and online form -