What is Modern Slavery?

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Background to modern slavery.

In 2007, celebrations marked the two hundredth anniversary of the 1807 Slave Trade Act which abolished the slave trade in the British Empire but not slavery. This act was passed after years of campaigning by the great abolitionist, William Wilberforce. But it was the enactment of The Slavery Abolition Act in 1833 that granted freedom to all slaves across the British Empire. Wilberforce and like minded friends used pamphlets, books, rallies and petitions to raise public awareness of the way African men, women, boys and girls were bought and sold as commodities, treated with terrible cruelty and denied their freedom.

Many admire the achievements of Wilberforce and believe that slavery is confined to the past; sadly nothing could be further from the truth. Research has shown that there are more people enslaved today than at any time in history. Modern-day slavery is the second most lucrative organised crime in the world behind drug trafficking; it is estimated to be worth $150 billion dollars much of which is generated in industrialised countries.

The Extent of Modern Slavery 2017.

In 2017 the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM)  estimated that there are over 40 million slaves around the world and that 71% percent are female. Around 25% are children – around 10 million. About 152 million children, aged between 5 and 17, were caught up in child labour.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by modern slavery, accounting for almost 29 million, or 71 per cent of the overall total.

Women make up 99 per cent of the victims of forced labour in the commercial sex industry and 84 per cent of forced marriages.

Of the 40 million victims of modern slavery, about 25 million were in forced labour, and 15 million were in forced marriage.

Some 37 percent (or 5.7 million) of those forced to marry were children.


Many of us are unaware that some of the goods we buy in the shops are produced by enslaved workers: the cotton t-shirt, the carpet that adorns the lounge and even our footwear. Most are blissfully unaware of the fact that our bedtime cocoa may have been harvested by enslaved children.

Men and youths need to know that most of the women caught up in the sex industry are not there because of a life style choice, but because they have been brutally trafficked from their countries or communities.

What is modern-day slavery?

When men, women and children are forced to work without pay, under threats of violence to them or their loved ones and when it is impossible for them to walk away … this is slavery.

Modern-day slaves can be found in factories, mines, on cotton farm, fruit farms, restaurants, construction sites, brothels and private homes. The majority of slaves are under the age of twenty four years, their young lives brutalised and ruined.

Many slaves come from vulnerable poor communities and have been tricked by traffickers with false promises of good jobs or education, but once they arrive at their destination, which may be across international borders or within their own country, they discover the brutal truth.

Poverty often drives parents into the hands of unscrupulous moneylenders; when families can’t pay, children are taken into debt bondage. In poor communities parents will often send children to urban households to work in return for food and an education; in reality the children, often as young as five years, enter into a world of domestic servitude where they are denied an education and at risk of physical and sexual abuse from members of the household.

Young boys and girls may be kidnapped, brutalised and forced to be child soldiers; this too is a form of slavery.

Human Trafficking

  •     Is modern day slavery.
  •     40 million slaves  globally.
  •     71% are female.
  •    25 % are children.

 Global Slavery Index 2017

What is human trafficking?

The UN Protocol-2003- gives a three part definition of trafficking:

1) The action of trafficking which means: the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons.

2) The means of trafficking which includes: threat of or use of force, deception, coercion, or abuse of power.

3) The purpose of trafficking is always exploitation.

  • Sexual exploitation                      Globally 53%     Europe 66%
  • Forced labour                                Globally 40%
  • Domestic servitude
  • Forced criminality
  • Forced marriage
  • Child soldiers
  • For the removal of organs

Trafficking can be across international boundaries or within a country.

It is worth noting that once a bale of cocaine has been sold it is of no more worth to the drug trafficker. However the enslaved person can be used over and over again; this is one of the reasons why human trafficking is the fastest growing organised crime in the world.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

  •    Human trafficking is the 2nd most lucrative organised crime in the world.
  •    It is estimated to be worth $150 billion dollars – (Profits and Poverty:        Economics of Forced Labour 2014)


Convictions for trafficking

The number of convictions for trafficking in persons is in general very low. Migrant slaves are often treated as illegal immigrants instead of the victims of crime that they are.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

  •     90% of countries have legislation since Palermo Agreement.
  •     Human Trafficking remains a low risk high profit activity.
  •    A rise in children, especially girls under 18 years.
    UNODC 2014



It’s Happening in the UK. –  Examples from Newspaper Headlines-

  •     Exposed: scandal of nail-bar slaves.
  •     Beaten. Raped. Starved: The teenage ‘ghosts’ behind British cannabis  trade
  •     The slaves in peril on the sea.
  •     A quiet hotel in the Highlands of Scotland.
  •     The Rotherham Scandal.
  •     UK Gov Report est. -13,000 victims                — 2015


The countries of the UK have responded by improving their anti-trafficking laws – making them more robust.  Those caught up in human trafficking must be treated as victims not as illegal immigrants as has happened in the past. Those convicted of enslavement or trafficking if convicted can face life imprisonment.

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Northern Ireland) Bill – January 2015.

This Bill included criminalisation of the purchase of sex.

Westminster Modern Slavery Bill – March 2015.

This Bill included a requirement on businesses to check on ‘transparency in the supply chain’ ie to ensure that there is no slave labour involved in the supply of their goods. The appointment of an Anti-slavery Commissioner was also a requirement of this Bill.

Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill – October 2015.

This a victim centred Bill. Those convicted under the Bill may face life imprisonment.

These laws can only succeed if the public know the signs and indicators of modern slavery which are shown below.

Indicators of Modern Slavery

  • Physical Appearance: may show signs of physical or psychological abuse.
  •  Isolation: victims never alone, appear to be controlled, rarely interact, unfamiliar with their neighbourhood.
  •  Poor living Conditions: dirty, overcrowded accommodation. Few or no personal effects: same clothes each day.
  • Restricted movements: travel documents retained.

Source www. modernslavery.co.uk

If you have concerns about a person or a situation in your community you can contact:

  • Police


  • Crime Stoppers      0800 555 111.

For more information check out the UK government website:

www. modernslavery.co.uk