Modern Slavery: A hidden crime

(I was sent the following which is such an important issue, not least for homeless and vulnerable people.  Please read it.  All credit for the content must go to Unseen and the Modern Slavery Helpline.)

The “chains” of modern slavery are often invisible. The threats, lies, and mentally abusive techniques used by exploiters make it impossible for victims to leave. Victims may not self-identify. We may encounter them in our daily lives and not realise it. Traffickers often transport the victims to disorient them and to avoid detection.

The UK-wide Modern Slavery Helpline and Resource Centre is a key tool in the UK’s fight against this terrible crime. The Helpline is confidential and operates 24/7, 365 days a year, taking calls from potential victims, members of the public, statutory agencies and businesses. The Helpline is staffed by fully trained specialists who can provide information, advice and guidance on any aspect of modern slavery. The Helpline works with statutory agencies and non-governmental agencies to help safeguard and protect vulnerable women, men and children who are exploited at the hands of others. Through the resource centre, we also work with other agencies and organisations to better understand the nature and scale of modern slavery in the UK.

Since October 2016, the Helpline has taken over 800 calls and made more than 150 police referrals and 30 safeguarding referrals. The Helpline is a central point of contact for anyone wanting to access support, including government-funded support through the National Referral Mechanism.

The following is a list of possible indicators that may indicate a modern slavery situation. The indicators may not be present in all modern slavery cases and are not cumulative. There may be several indicators that suggest that someone may be a victim of modern slavery. These include physical appearance, isolation, poor living conditions, few or no personal effects, restricted freedom of movement, unusual travel times, or they may be reluctant to seek help. More information is provided below.

The individual(s) in question:

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is transported to and from work
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)

Poor Mental Health or Abnormal Behaviour:

  • Is fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, or nervous/paranoid
  • Exhibits unusually fearful or anxious behaviour particularly towards the authorities
  • Avoids eye contact
  • Poor physical health
  • Appears malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture

Lack of Control:

  • Has few or no personal possessions
  • Is not in control of his/her own money, no financial records, or bank account
  • Is not in control of his/her own identification documents (ID or passport)
  • Is not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating)


  • Claims of just visiting and inability to clarify where he/she is staying/address
  • Lack of knowledge of whereabouts and/or do not know what city he/she is in
  • Loss of sense of time
  • Has numerous inconsistencies in his/her story

If you think you have come into contact with a potential victim, call the Modern Slavery Helpline for information, guidance and support on 08000 121 700.