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What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery, where people are recruited and moved for the purpose of exploitation, as they are forced or manipulated into working for the profit of others.

In practice, the terms modern slavery and human trafficking are often used interchangeably. For clarity, we have defined both below.


The UN defined human trafficking in the Palermo Protocol as the ‘recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force, coercion or deception… to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation’.


According to this definition, trafficking includes sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, domestic servitude, any form of slavery, and the removal of organs.

Human Trafficking = Act + Means + Purpose

Trafficking is a complex crime and consists of three parts


ACT: What is done

Recruiting, transporting, transferring, harbouring and receiving a person.


MEANS: How it’s done

Through threats, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power and vulnerability, giving and receiving payments.


PURPOSE: Why it’s done

To use a person through forms of exploitation such as: sexual exploitation, forced labour, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation, and organ harvesting.

All 3 components must be present for an adult to be considered trafficked. However, as regards children, the ‘means’ component is not required as they are not able to give consent.

Image by Erik Mclean

What is Modern Slavery?

The Home Office has described modern slavery as “a serious and brutal crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain”. 


“Traffickers and slave masters use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment.” HM Government


Usually, the victim is forced to work or is sexually exploited, and the trafficker keeps all or nearly all of the money. The control can be physical, financial, or psychological.


Modern slavery is not just something that’s happening beyond our borders. It can happen to people of all ages and nationalities, but often it is prevalent amongst the most vulnerable groups whose desires to build a better future for themselves and their families are exploited. Typically, women and girls are most affected.


The scale of these crimes is huge and the impact on people’s lives is devastating. Modern slavery is an issue that happens everywhere and affects us all – it is happening here and now in the UK, too.

Below are some types of modern slavery and exploitation.

Spot the signs

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