40.3 million people are estimated to be trapped in some form of modern slavery in the world today.

136,000 victims estimated in the UK (according to the Global Slavery Index).

6,993 potential victims found in 2018 (UK).

Modern slavery is an umbrella term for all forms of slavery, trafficking and exploitation. 

At the core of this crime is deception. Survivors of modern slavery tell stories of being sold a better life. They are often vulnerable, coming from areas where there is little possibility of work. They are offered a job, a chance to make money and to build a new life for themselves. Those who offer these opportunities may even organise their travel to a different country, controlling every aspect of their trip. 

The job they are offered turns out to be a lie and instead they are forced to work in difficult and degrading conditions, with little or no pay. The threat of violence, to themselves or their families, hangs over them and traps them in their situation. Even if their trafficker does not physically control them, a mistrust of authority may stop them from going to the police.

This could be the reality for 136,000 men, women and children in the UK. Modern slavery knows no borders, and people of all ages and races can be victims. The 6,993 potential victims referred to the National Crime Agency in 2018 came from 130 different countries, the most common of which were the UK, Albania, and Vietnam.

Statistics are taken from the Global Slavery Index and the National Crime Agency (UK).

Number of Potential Victims of Trafficking (PVoT) referred to the National Crime Agency in the UK

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensuring they receive the appropriate support. The NRM is also the mechanism through which the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) collect data about victims. This information contributes to building a clearer picture about the scope of human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK. PVoT referrals can be made by government agencies, local authorities, certain NGO/Third Sector bodies and the Police

Forms of exploitation

In 2018, the National Crime Agency received 6,993 potential victim of trafficking (PVOT) referrals. Every referral is voluntary and can only happen if the potential victim gives their permission by signing the referral form (in the case of children their consent is not required). Referrals are categorised as one of four distinct forms of exploitation: labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and organ harvesting.


Claimed form of exploitation in 2018 Referrals to the National Crime Agency

NB. There were also six referrals for Organ Harvesting.

Labour Exploitation

Victims of forced labour are made to work long hours, often in hard conditions, without relevant training and equipment. They are forced to hand over the majority, if not all, of their wages to their traffickers. In many cases victims are subjected to verbal threats or violence and often large numbers of people are kept in the same house in horrific conditions.  

Cases of labour exploitation have been widely reported in car washes and nail bars, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. Victims have been found in the manufacturing, entertainment, travel, farming, and construction industries. 

Labour exploitation can sometimes mean criminal exploitation, where victims are forced to commit crimes. For example where they are forced to pickpocket, or made to work on a cannabis farm, tending the plants.

Sexual ExploitatioN

Sexual exploitation involves any non-consensual or abusive sexual acts performed without a victim’s permission. This includes prostitution, escort work, or pornography. Women, men and children of both sexes can be victims and many will be controlled through violence and abuse.

Domestic Servitude

Victims of domestic servitude are forced to work in a private household. Their movement will often be restricted and they will perform household tasks like childcare and house-keeping over long hours and for little, if any, pay. In rare circumstances where victims receive a wage it will be heavily reduced, as they are often charged for food and accommodation.

Victims will lead isolated lives and have little or no unsupervised freedom. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

Organ Harvesting

Organ harvesting is one aspect of the trade in human organs and involves any organ that can be removed and used, of which kidneys and livers are the most commonly traded. Traffickers may force or deceive their victims into giving up an organ, or victims may agree to sell an organ but are not paid or paid less than the promised price. Sometimes victims are treated for an illness, which may or may not exist, and their organs are removed without their knowledge. 

Download posters and leaflets to help you raise awareness and spot the signs on our resources page.