Human trafficking

Trafficking of people is a serious crime and a violation of Human Rights. A person is trafficked if they are brought to (or moved around) a country by others who threaten, frighten, hurt and force them to do work or other things they don’t want to do. Human Trafficking affects people of all ages, gender and race.

Modern slavery

There are many different characteristics that distinguish slavery from other human rights violations, however only one needs to be present for slavery to exist. Someone is in slavery if they are:

  • Forced to work - through mental or physical threat
  • Owned or controlled by an 'employer', usually through mental or physical abuse or the threat of abuse
  • Dehumanised, treated as a commodity or bought and sold as property
  • Physically constrained or has restrictions placed on his/her freedom of movement

Contemporary slavery takes various forms and affects people of all ages, gender and races.

Modern Slavery is illegal.

Grooming and exploitation of young people

Any young person regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity and sexuality can be at risk of being exploited. However, there are a number of factors that can increase a young person’s vulnerability.

These include children or young people who:

  • Go missing, especially on regular occasions from home or care
  • Have a history of domestic abuse within the family environment
  • Have a history of abuse (including child sexual abuse, risk of forced marriage, risk of honour-based violence, physical and emotional abuse and neglect)
  • Have experienced or are experiencing problematic parenting
  • Have parents who take drugs and/or who are alcohol-dependent
  • Have parents with health problems
  • Are young carers within the family unit
  • Experience social exclusion as a result of poverty
  • Have experienced recent bereavement or loss
  • Have unsupervised use of social networking chat rooms/sites
  • Have mental ill health
  • Have social or learning difficulties
  • Have low self-esteem or self-confidence
  • Misuse alcohol and/or drugs
  • Have been or are excluded from mainstream education
  • Are involved in gang activity
  • Attend school with other young people who are sexually exploited
  • Are friends with individuals who are sexually exploited
  • Do not have friends in the same age group
  • Are being bullied
  • Live in care, foster care, hostels and/or bed and breakfast accommodation – particularly when living out of their home area
  • Are homeless
  • Have associations with gangs through relatives, peers or intimate relationships.

Children from loving and secure homes can also be victims of exploitation. The characteristics common to all victims are not always their age, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation, but their powerlessness and vulnerability.

Know the signs 

Children and young victims often do not recognise they are being exploited. However, there are a number of signs that could indicate a child is being groomed.

  • Changes in temperament or suffering from depression, mood swings or changes in emotional well-being
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Association with other young people involved in exploitation and having older boyfriends/girlfriends
  • Getting involved in petty crime such as shoplifting or stealing
  • Education
  • Being absent and truanting, lack of interest and frequent poor behaviour
  • Considerable change in performance.


  • Appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions.
  • Change in appearance.
  • Family and social relationships
  • Children or young people who become estranged from their family.
  • Sudden hostility towards family members.
  • Becoming physically aggressive towards family and friends.
  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late.
  • Involvement in exploitative relationships or association with risky adults.
  • Young people being found in towns or districts where they have no known connection.
  • Young people who have more than one boyfriend or who share their boyfriend.
  • Children or young people seen entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults.
  • Becoming detached from age-related activities and social groups.
  • Being sexually active.
  • Receiving phone calls and/or text messages from unknown adults.
  • Children or young people who appear to be recruiting others into exploitative situations.


  • Evidence of drug, alcohol and/or substance use. Abusers may use drugs and alcohol to help control children and young people.
  • Unexplained physical injuries; for example, bruising suggestive of either physical assault.
  • Children or young people who are self-harming and demonstrating suicidal thoughts and tendencies.


Making someone feel cared for, giving someone affection, building an emotional connection and trust with someone for the purpose of exploitation. The grooming process can be over a long period of time or can happen quickly.

Grooming techniques can also be used on those associated with a victim in order to support access to that victim.  Many victims do not recognise manipulative techniques used by the perpetrator.

Signs to recognise human trafficking and modern slavery

Suspicions may arise in a number of ways have you noticed any of the following at premises near to you:

  • Heavy presence of security personnel be it a farm, factory or building site
  • Barred windows, locked doors or surveillance cameras
  • Does it look like people are working and living at the same place, are the conditions cramped or overcrowded
  • Are “workers” collected very early and return late at night on a regular basis
  • Are they driven between premises
  • Is there a lack of safety equipment or appropriate clothing
  • Many victims may appear malnourished or show signs of bruises, other injury, their appearance may be unkempt
  • Victims may be isolated form the local community or under the control or influence of others

Forced labour/labour exploitation

Forced labour is a situation in which victims are forced to work against their own will under the threat of violence or some other form of punishment. Labour exploitation is placing a worker under extremely poor conditions such as very low wages, being forced to work long hours, having their movements supervised, living in very poor conditions and having their identification documents taken away to prevent them from leaving. Victims are typically forced to work in sectors including agriculture, food processing and packaging and construction

Child labour

Child labour is a form of work that is likely to be hazardous to the physical, mental or social development of children and interfere with their education. Children as young as 11 are sadly found in the sex industry or caught committing crimes such as pick pocketing.

Domestic servitude

Victims of domestic servitude may be physically or psychologically imprisoned in residential properties as domestic servants. Rich families exploit workers, making them work long hours for very little pay and no time off. Victims may find their movements restricted and live in poor accommodation, often in the loft or basement.

Debt Bondage

Debt bondage is when victims are offered a job abroad but arrive to find the job either doesn’t exist or isn’t what they expected. They are then trapped trying to pay off the cost of their travel and a job finding fee they may have been charged. In some cases families offer their children to a trafficker as payment towards their growing debt.

Sexual Exploitation

Commercial sexual exploitation includes pornography, prostitution and sex trafficking of men, women and children and is defined as the exploitation of a human beings in exchange for goods or money. Some sex trafficking such as prostitution is highly visible but much remains unseen in brothels, massage parlours, strip clubs and private accommodation.

What should I do if I suspect human trafficking or modern slavery?

For advice please contact the Modern Day Slavery Helpline 0800 0121 700.

Or please call Essex Police on 101 to report your suspicion or if you cannot phone use our report a non-emergency crime to provide the information. If you wish to remain anonymous you can report via crime stoppers 0800 555 111 or submit information via their Anonymous Online Form.

How can Essex Police help me as a victim?

Essex Police will believe you, your safety and welfare are paramount. Essex Police will work with you and our partner agencies through the UK Human Trafficking Centre and the Salvation Army to provide protection, shelter, and support for you. Essex Police will investigate and seek to bring to justice those who exploit others through Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery.

Where can I find more information?

You can download a leaflet giving further information in the following languages: Albanian, Czech, English, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Ugandan, Mandarin, Polish, Romanian, Slovakian, Vietnamese, Yoruba.

How do I get help?

Essex Police can be contacted on 101 or if you believe you are in immediate danger please call 999. If you would prefer you may contact the Modern Day Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700 or the Salvation Army on their 24-hour confidential Referral Helpline on 0300 3038 151 available 24 hours a day, seven days a week or via Email: [email protected]

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