Prevalence

There are an estimated 8,300 people in modern slavery in United Kingdom – this is equivalent to 0.013% of the entire population

According to government records, the most prominent form of modern slavery identified in the United Kingdom (UK) is trafficking of foreign nationals and UK citizens for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour, which affects both adults and children.1 Though the numbers of UK nationals trafficked outside of the country are small, there have been some cases identified.2

Victims of forced labour in the UK are most commonly identified in the paving block and tarmacking industry.3 Victims claimed they had been trafficked by members of the Gypsy-Traveller community based in the UK.4 UK nationals can be trafficked into the construction industry or for commercial sexual exploitation.5 Cases of modern slavery of foreign nationals have been reported in low skill occupations such as those in factories, agriculture, food preparation, processing and packaging, as well as in restaurants, nail salons, and door-to-door leaflet delivery.6 Forced criminality, such as cannabis cultivation, has been documented, affecting Vietnamese children exploited in cannabis factories or farms.7

In 2013, data from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and informants identified that 2,744 potential victims of human trafficking were encountered in the UK, an increase of 22 percent from 2012.8 The majority of potential victims were from Romania (307), Poland (239), UK (193), Albania (192) and Nigeria (158).9 Comparatively, during the first quarter of 2014, 566 adults and children were referred to the National Referral Mechanism. Of these, 195 were officially recognised as victims of modern slavery, while another 218 await a Conclusive Decision.10 As adults must consent to be referred to the NRM, it is evident that the figures solely from the NRM are not indicative of the true scale of modern slavery in the UK.

There is evidence of sexual exploitation of UK children who are trafficked within the UK by organised or semi-organised gangs, groups, and networks.11 Girls are groomed by groups of young men who sometimes, after convincing the girls they are in love, force them to perform sexual acts. Some of these girls are moved between groups and gangs for further sexual exploitation.12 A recent report on child sexual abuse in Rotherham over the period 1997 to 2013, revealed that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited during this period. Many of these were trafficked by gangs to other towns in the North of England.13

Foreign domestic workers, predominately from the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nigeria and Morocco,14 can be vulnerable to exploitation under the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa, a legal framework that ties domestic workers to their employers. Cases have been identified where women have been lured to the UK with offers of employment as domestic workers only to have their passports confiscated and conditions of employment changed. Many of these individuals were deprived adequate food, contact with their families, and freedom of movement. Victims found that their salaries, if paid, were a fraction of what they had been promised.15

Products known to be produced using modern slavery16

Meat productsPaving blocks

Government response

ScoreSurvivors are supportedCriminal justiceCoordination and accountabilityAttitudes, social systems and institutionsBusiness and government
BBB77.88166.781.30

The UK has made some progress against the recommendations published in the Global Slavery Index last year.17 Provisions requiring companies to publicly disclose what action they have taken each year to ensure that their supply chain is slavery-free is a welcome addition and reflects this input.18 Further amendments are necessary, however, to ensure that the Bill provides stronger protections for victims of modern slavery,19 particularly for children. The current draft of the Bill does not create a specific offence of child exploitation, nor a system of legal guardianship.

The UK demonstrates a strong criminal justice response to modern slavery, as shown by steps to strengthen the broad legislative response to modern slavery, including forced marriage.20 There have, however, been reports of the criminalisation of victims for actions they were forced to commit while enslaved.21 An important clause in the Modern Slavery Bill provides for defence for victims who have been forced to commit a crime as a result of their enslavement.22 When enacted, this would provide an important safety net for those who plead guilty; more could be done to prevent the criminalisation of victims who face arrest, incarceration, and prosecution.

The UK recently published a review into its National Referral Mechanism (NRM). This review aimed to make it easier for relevant agencies to cooperate and share information, and to facilitate access to advice, accommodation and support services.23 The present NRM has been criticised for being overly complex, and for making erroneous decisions that have negative implications for vulnerable populations, particularly children.24 The burden is on the victim, including children, to prove that they have been a victim of modern slavery, rather than on the authorities to identify them as such.25 There are concerns that non-EU victims are not referred to the NRM for fear of deportation, or detention in immigration detention centres, police cells or prisons.26

In 2012, the UK Government changed the rules for documented workers under the Overseas Domestic Worker visa so that domestic workers who relocate to the UK with their employers can no longer change employers or apply for settlement. This can increase the risk of abuse.27 Requirements that the worker must be employed by the employer for a minimum of 12 months prior to moving to the UK, and that the employer must sign a statement of conditions of employment, are insufficient to ensure that the working conditions were not exploitative in the first place, and that they do not become so once the worker has moved to the UK.28

The link between business and slavery is gaining credence in the UK as shown by recent amendments to the Modern Slavery Bill, commitments to ensure human rights are respected in UK Government procurement policies, and by amendments to the Companies Act, which requires listed companies to report against human rights issues.29 Passing the Modern Slavery Bill would help to ensure that these commitments translate into concrete action.

Vulnerability

Slavery policyHuman rightsState stabilityDiscriminationDevelopment
8.110.318.417.617.1

The United Kingdom benefits from a high level of social and economic development and strong rule of law with little institutional corruption. The UK’s most vulnerable groups are migrant workers, illegal migrants, asylum seekers, and vulnerable individuals like homeless people and people suffering with learning difficulties, as recent cases in the British media have shown.30 Children, particularly refugee, asylum seeking, non-EU and UK children in care, are also vulnerable.31

Migrant workers, like the aforementioned domestic workers, may be exposed to exploitative conditions due to a lack of regulation of their conditions of employment. Asylum seekers are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Many are unable to meet the basic needs of themselves and their families, and as they are not legally allowed to work, often seek work within exploitative informal sectors. They are paid less than the minimum wage and are often coerced into working extremely long hours.32

Recommendations

Government

  • Amend the modern slavery bill to reflect recommendations made by the leading anti-trafficking and human rights organisation in the UK. These amendments include:
    • Establish an independent, legal system of guardianship for all separated children.
    • Establish an Anti- Slavery Commissioner and ensure its independence from the Home Office.
    • Include a non-prosecution clause for children and adults who have been trafficked and criminally exploited – so they are not prosecuted for crimes forced to commit during the trafficking process, and
    • Strengthen victim care and services for those affected by modern slavery.
    • Create a separate offence of child exploitation in the criminal legislation.
    • Place a duty to identify on public agencies.
    • To include provisions on corporate action that are both proportionate and meaningful, consisting of an effective reporting mechanism and for the largest companies, provisions that require slavery eradication.
  • Strengthen cooperation and coordination mechanisms of the National Referral Mechanism to facilitate access to services for victims of modern slavery and put the right to support on a statutory footing in the Modern Slavery Bill.
  • Raise awareness of the National Referral Mechanism among practitioners and provide training to all frontline workers who identify modern slavery.
  • Review and update Overseas Domestic Workers visa policy to ensure better protection of Domestic workers, for example, the inclusion of private interviews with migrant domestic workers after their arrival to assess their working conditions.

Business

  • Work with government to develop and implement policies to tackle modern slavery in supply chains.
  • Encourage the UK government to pass supply chain legislation.
  • Report on measures taken to eradicate modern slavery from supply chains, ensuring that goods and services sold in the UK are free from modern slavery.
  • Produce a director’s statement on risk assessment, prevention and eradication and an assurance statement verifying the above.
“Joanna… started getting into trouble at school [when] she first met her boyfriend. They quickly became close, and Joanna spent a lot of time with him and his friends, some of whom were older. Soon some of her friends from school also started to hang around with the group too. The men would give the girls alcohol and sometimes even drugs… It was not long, however, before Joanna’s boyfriend and his friends began to be more demanding. They began to tell Joanna’s friends to do things they did not want to do; the girls were forced to have sex with Joanna’s boyfriend and whoever else he told them to. They were taken to different parts of the country to ‘parties’ where they were sexually abused. Thinking that they had no choice, some even acting out of love, Joanna’s friends kept doing what they were told… Some of Joanna’s friends would go missing for days, being taken to different towns to be exploited by other men.”
Joanna’s mother tells the story of her daughter, a victim of domestic trafficking in the United Kingdom, October 2012.
“It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery”, (Centre for Social Justice, 2013), p. 123, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/CSJ_Slavery_Full_Report_WEB(5).pdf

See where United Kingdom ranks in Europe

Learn about slavery in Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Haiti, or

Footnotes

  1. “Second report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking”, (United Kingdom Department of Justice, 2013), p.11, accessed 14/08/14: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/251487/9794-TSO-HMG_Human_Trafficking.pdf
  2. Anti-Slavery International, “Voice from the Field”, (Reporter Magazine, 2011), p.10, accessed 14/08/14:

    http://www.antislavery.org/includes/documents/cm_docs/2012/1/13_autumn_2011_voice.pdf

  3. It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery, (The Centre for Social Justice, 2013), p. 37, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/CSJ_Slavery_Full_Report_WEB(5).pdf
  4. Eurostat, “Trafficking in human beings, 2013 edition” (Eurostat, 2013), p. 14, accessed 14/08/14:  http://www.ungift.org/doc/knowledgehub/resource-centre/EU/European_Commission_2013_The_statistical_report_on_trafficking_in_human_beings.pdf  
  5. “A Strategic Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2012”, (United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre, 2012), p.7, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.ecpat.org.uk/sites/default/files/ext-6538_ukhtc_strategic_assesssment_on_human_trafficking_2012_v1.01.pdf
  6. The Centre for Social Justice, “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery”, (CSJ, 2013), p. 37, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/CSJ_Slavery_Full_Report_WEB(5).pdf
  7. “A Strategic Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2012”, (United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre, 2012), p.23, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.ecpat.org.uk/sites/default/files/ext-6538_ukhtc_strategic_assesssment_on_human_trafficking_2012_v1.01.pdfReport from the Joint Inquiry into Children who go missing from Care (United Kingdom, 2012), accessed 14/10/14:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/175563/Report_-_children_who_go_missing_from_care.pdf
  8. NCA Strategic Assessment: The Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2013, (National Crime Agency, 2014), p.4, accessed 01/11/14: http://www.ecpat.org.uk/sites/default/files/ukhtc_report_2013.pdf
  9. As above, p. 6
  10. As of 1st July 2014. 218 refers to individuals who are likely to be victims, but have not been fully confirmed as such. The UK has a two stage system for identifying victims of trafficking. Within five days of receipt of a referral the NRM team decides whether there are reasonable grounds to believe an individual is victim of trafficking. During a 45 day recovery period the competent authority then decides if ‘it is more likely than not’ that the individual is a victim of trafficking, after which they are granted a Conclusive Decision. In: United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC), “Human Trafficking: National Referral Mechanism Statistics- January to March 2014” (National Crime Agency, 2014), p. 8, accessed 02/09/14: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/national-referral-mechanism-statistics/311-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-january-to-march-2014/file
  11. “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery”, (The Centre for Social Justice, 2013), p. 120, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/UserStorage/pdf/Pdf%20reports/CSJ_Slavery_Full_Report_WEB(5).pdf
  12. As above, p.37
  13. Alexis Jay, “Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham: 1997-2013” (Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, 2014), accessed 29/08/14: http://www.rotherham.gov.uk/downloads/file/1407/independent_inquiry_cse_in_rotherham
  14. “Hidden Away: Abuses Against Migrant Domestic Workers in the UK” (Human Rights Watch, 2014), pp.25-26, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/03/30/hidden-away
  15. As above
  16. Eurostat, “Trafficking in human beings, 2013 edition” (Eurostat, 2013), p. 14, accessed 14/08/14:  http://www.ungift.org/doc/knowledgehub/resource-centre/EU/European_Commission_2013_The_statistical_report_on_trafficking_in_human_beings.pdf  ; and Katie Harris, “Forced labour in the UK: ‘There was no escape. I lived every day in fear”, The Guardian, November 21, 2013, accessed 08/08/14: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/nov/20/forced-labour-uk-escape-fear-polish-migrant
  17. These recommendations included ‘pass the modern slavery bill, reconstruct the national referral system, and ensure business is brought to the table on this issue.’ These recommendations can be accessed: www.globalslaveryindex.org/country/united-kingdom 33 While the Modern Slavery Bill has yet to be passed, it has received input from civil society and experts working in the anti-slavery space.34 “Draft Modern Slavery Bill”, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/draft-modern-slavery-bill/
  18. “Joint Committee hears evidence from supply chains” accessed 14/08/14 http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/draft-modern-slavery-bill/news/evidence-session-draft-modern-slavery-/
  19. “Rewrite Modern Slavery bill offences to make new law work”, accessed 14/08/14 http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/draft-modern-slavery-bill/news/rewrite-modern-slavery-bill-offences/. See also Anthony Steen’s comments reported here: Amelia Gentleman, “Modern slavery bill is ‘lost opportunity’, says human trafficking adviser”, The Guardian, accessed 05/11/14: http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/nov/03/modern-slavery-bill-lost-opportunity-human-trafficking-adviser. Anthony Steen is the home secretary’s former special envoy for human trafficking.
  20. “Forced marriage law send ‘powerful message’”, BBC News, June 16, 2014, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-27830815
  21. “National Referral Mechanism”, accessed 22/07/14: http://www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/about-us/what-we-do/specialist-capabilities/uk-human-trafficking-centre/national-referral-mechanism
  22. Field source
  23. Review of the National Referral Mechanism for victims of human trafficking, (United Kingdom Government Home Office, November 2014), accessed 15/11/14: https://nrm.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/2014/11/nrm-final-report.pdf
  24. Field source
  25. Field source
  26. GRETA, Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by the United Kingdom: First evaluation round, (Strasbourg, 12 September 2012) p. 7, accessed 03/08/14: http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/trafficking/docs/Reports/GRETA_2012_6_FGR_GBR_en.pdf
  27. “Hidden Away: Abuses Against Migrant Domestic Workers in the UK”, (Human Rights Watch, 2014), p.16, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2014/03/30/hidden-away
  28. As above
  29. “Modern slavery: how the UK is leading the fight”, accessed 10/07/14: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/328096/Modern_slavery_booklet_v12_WEB__2_.pdf
  30. Alexandra Topping, “Four face jail after first conviction under new ‘slavery’ laws”, The Guardian, July 12, 2012, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/jul/11/four-face-jail-slavery-law-convictions, See also: BBC News, “Rooke family treated vulnerable man as ‘slave’, BBC News, January 7, 2014, accessed 14/08/14: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-25642431
  31. Field source
  32. Economic and Social Research Council, “Precarious Lives: Experiences of forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers in England” (University of Leeds and University of Salford, 2013), accessed 14/08/14: http://precariouslives.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/precarious_lives_findings_summary_2-7-13.pdf

Other reports

Country briefs

View detailed country briefs that describe the nature of problem, government responses, and action needed to address modern slavery in 32 countries.

Country results

View the prevalence, vulnerability and government response data of each country.

Regional profiles

View regional trends in:

Get the full report

Download the report
Survivors are identified, supported to exit and remain out of modern slavery
Criminal justice mechanisms address modern slavery
Coordination and accountability mechanisms for the central government are in place
Attitudes, social systems and institutions that enable modern slavery are addressed
Businesses and governments through their public procurement stop sourcing goods and services that use modern slavery

Government response rating: AAA

Numerical range: 59 to 64

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of AAA are as follows:
The government has an implemented an effective and comprehensive response to all forms of modern slavery, with effective emergency and long-term reintegration victim support services, a strong criminal justice framework, high levels of coordination and collaboration, measures to address all forms of vulnerability, and strong government procurement policies and legislation to ensure that slavery is not present in business supply chains. There is no evidence of criminalisation or deportation of victims.

Government response rating: AA

Numerical range: 53 to 58

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of AA are as follows:
The government has implemented a comprehensive response to most forms of modern slavery, with strong victim support services, a robust criminal justice framework, demonstrated coordination and collaboration, measures to address vulnerability, and government procurement guidelines and/or supply chain policies or legislation to ensure that slavery is not present in business supply chains.

Government response rating: A

Numerical range: 47 to 52

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of A are as follows:
The government has implemented key components of a holistic response to some forms of modern slavery, with strong victim support services, a strong criminal justice framework, demonstrated coordination and collaboration, measures to address vulnerability, and may have taken action to ensure that government procurement policies do not encourage slavery.

Government response rating: BBB

Numerical range: 41 to 46

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of BBB are as follows:
The government has implemented key components of a holistic response to modern slavery, with victim support services, a strong criminal justice response, evidence of coordination and collaboration, and protections in place for vulnerable populations. Governments may be beginning to address slavery in supply chains of government procurement, or of businesses operating within their territory. There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or cause victims to be deported.

Government response rating: BB

Numerical range: 35 to 40

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of BB are as follows:
The government has introduced a response to modern slavery, which includes short term victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, a body to coordinate the response, and protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or cause victims to be deported, and/or facilitate slavery.

Government response rating: B

Numerical range: 29 to 34

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of B are as follows:
The government has introduced a response to modern slavery, with limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, (or has recently amended inadequate legislation and policies), a body or mechanisms that coordinate the response, and has policies that provide some protection for those vulnerable to modern slavery. There is evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or deport victims, and/or facilitate slavery. Services may be provided by International Organisations (IOs)/ NGOs with international funding, sometimes with government monetary or in-kind support.

Government response rating: CCC

Numerical range: 23 to 28

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of CCC are as follows:
The government has a response to modern slavery, with limited victim support services, a criminal justice framework that criminalises some forms of modern slavery, has a national action plan and/or national coordination body, and has policies that provide some protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery. There is evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or deport victims, and/ or facilitate slavery. Services may be largely provided by IOs/NGOs with international funding, with limited government funding or in-kind support.

Government response rating: CC

Numerical range: 17 to 22

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of CC are as follows:
The government has a limited response to modern slavery, with largely basic victim support services, a limited criminal justice framework, limited coordination or collaboration mechanism, and few protections for those vulnerable to modern slavery.There may be evidence that some government policies and practices facilitate slavery. Services are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with limited government funding or in-kind support.

Government response rating: C

Numerical range: 11 to 16

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of C are as follows:
The government response to modern slavery is inadequate, with limited and/or few victim support services, a weak criminal justice framework, weak coordination or collaboration, while little is being done to address vulnerability.There are government practices and policies that facilitate slavery. Services, where available, are largely provided by IOs/NGOs with little government funding or in-kind support.

Government response rating: D

Numerical range: <0 to 10

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of D are as follows:
The government has a wholly inadequate response to modern slavery, and/ or there is evidence of government sanctioned modern slavery. However, countries in this category may be experiencing high levels of poverty and internal conflict that may prevent, or hinder a response to modern slavery.