Slavery is closer than you think

Date published: 10 August 2023 07:24

Victims are forced to work illegally, against their will in many different sectors, including brothels, cannabis farms, nail bars, agriculture and even within people’s homes.

There is no typical victim of slavery – they can be men, women and children of all ages but it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups.

Victims found in the UK come from many different countries, including Romania, Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and the UK itself.

Labour exploitation

Victims are being compelled to work long hours, often in hard conditions, and to hand the majority of their wages to traffickers.

Modern slavery is often hidden in plain sight, but can present itself in places you visit frequently such as nail bars or car washes. Businesses like this may unknowingly be employing people who have been trafficked into the country. 

Signs to look out for

  • Victims being compelled to work long hours
  • Excessive dependence on employers or third parties
  • Sub-standard living conditions
  • Wages being witheld or excessive wage reductions
  • Restriction of movement and confinement, to the workplace or to a limited area

Nail bars

  • Do they only speak a little English (if any at all)?
  • Are they unusually quiet or untidy looking?
  • Does someone always talk and take payment for them?
  • Is there a lack of professional qualifications on display?
  • Could someone be living at the salon?

Car washes

  • Are workers dressed inappropriately for the job?
  • Does one person always take payment?
  • Is the car wash over staffed?
  • Do the workers seem uneasy and under pressure?
  • Is there a container or caravan on site where workers could be living?

Sexual exploitation

Victims are being forced into non-consensual or abusive sexual acts.

Signs to look out for

  • There are many signs to look out for, including the following:
  • Physical injuries
  • Evidence of physical abuse
  • Visible emotional distress
  • Someone who is uncommunicative, tense and fails to make eye contact
  • Signs of sexual abuse, and/or sexually transmitted diseases
Sexual exploitation

Domestic servitude

Domestic servitude

Victims are being forced to work in private households, performing tasks such as childcare and housekeeping, over long hours for little pay.

There are many signs to look out for, including the following:

  • Poor living conditions - someone living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address
  • Few or no personal effects - victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes.
  • What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
  • Reluctance to seek help - victims may avoid eye-contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear police

Criminal activities

Victims are being forced to take part in criminal activities such as cannabis farming.

There are many signs to look out for, including the following:

Properties where the curtains or blinds are closed at a property all the time, a pungent smell is coming from the property, and there are visitors at unusual times day or night.

Criminal activities

What to do

If you suspect slavery is happening to you or someone you know:

  • Report it to by calling 101, or 999 if it's an emergency
  • Call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700
  • Report it online