Who are the victims of Modern Slavery?

Victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds.

Although there is no typical victim of slavery, traffickers prey on the most vulnerable in society and often within minority or socially excluded groups. Many of their victims do not speak English.

Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to vulnerable people becoming victims.

Because modern slavery can be complex, varied and hidden it may be hard to detect.

There are however some tell-tale signs that can identify victims, the premises where they might be held and the businesses and workplaces which may – purposefully or unintentionally - use slave labour.

Warning signs

  • Legal documents – Does the person have a passport, bank account details and other standard legal documentation or are these being held by someone else? Victims are often forced to use false or forged identity documents.
  • Medical care - Does the person have old or untreated injuries? Have they delayed going to the doctors or hospital, and are they vague, reluctant or inconsistent in explaining how the injury occurred?
  • Appearance - Does the person look malnourished, unkempt, or appear withdrawn? Do they have physical injuries? Do they have few personal possessions and often wear the same clothes, which may not be suitable for work or conditions?
  • Behaviour – Does the person appear withdrawn, frightened, unable to answer questions or speak for themselves? If they do speak, are they inconsistent or unsure of basic facts? Do they rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their surroundings?
    Fear of authorities – Does the person avoid contact with authorities? Are they scared of removal or what might happen to their families?
  • Debt bondage - Does the victim perceive themselves to be in debt to someone else or in a situation of dependence?

Signs specific to child victims

  • Absent parent or legal guardian - Is the child being cared for by someone who is not their parent or legal guardian and is the quality of the relationship between them poor or a reason for concern? Some children may not be attending school or registered with a GP.
  • Multiple children - Are there a number of unrelated children living at one address? Are they frequently moved to other locations?
  • Identity documents - Missing, altered or false documentation is common.
  • Grooming - Children may not always show outward signs of distress and may have a ‘bond’ with those exploiting them. They will have been told not to ‘tell’ and inwardly may be feeling scared or traumatised.

How to spot a property where a victim may be held

Outside the property

  • Are there window bars? Are the curtains always drawn or do the windows have reflective film or coatings applied to them?
  • Does the entrance to the property have CCTV cameras installed?
  • Is the letterbox sealed to prevent use?
  • Is there any sign that electricity may have been tacked on from neighbouring properties or directly from power lines?

Inside the property

  • Is access to some rooms of the property restricted or are doors locked?
  • Is the property overcrowded or badly cared for?