Forced labour is when victims are threatened or physically forced into working in someone's home or business. Criminals might also trick their victims by promising real work in another place or country, then forcing them into slavery once they arrive.
Even if a victim seemingly agrees to the work, we can still prosecute if the work and conditions aren't acceptable. Nobody can agree to being exploited.
Victims can work very long hours for little or no pay. They are often kept and work in terrible conditions. But it is still modern slavery if the victim is kept in decent conditions, but is not free to leave or live their lives as they want.
Victims can be forced to do any kind of commercial work. Common examples include:
on a fishing boat
as a builder
in a hotel
in a factory
as a cleaner in an office or shop
in nail bars
in car washes
But they can also be forced to work in people's homes, cooking and cleaning as domestic slaves.
Criminal exploitation is when victims are made to commit crimes like:
stealing fuel from cars
Some victims in the drug trade are forced to work as cannabis growers. Others are used to distribute or sell drugs.
County lines is one form of criminal exploitation. This is where vulnerable people, often children, are used to carry drugs from cities to sell them in nearby towns and the countryside.
Victims are forced into sex work or to perform sexual acts against their wishes and without their consent. This includes escort work, pornography or making indecent images of children.
Most victims of sexual exploitation are women and children, but men can also be affected.
Victims are moved from one place to another so they can have their body parts removed. These are then sold for surgical transplants. Body parts include tissues and organs, for example, kidneys.
Spotting modern slavery
Modern slavery can happen anywhere in any situation. Each case is different, and may not fit the stereotype of groups of people being forced to work in fields or on fishing boats.
The signs of forced labour, and criminal or sexual exploitation can be very different. Victims might look helpless and afraid, but they can also seem to accept their situation, be completely unaware of it, or even defend the people who are exploiting them.
Report it and get support
If you think modern slavery is happening, tell someone as soon as you think it’s safe to. This could be about a victim, a suspect, or a particular business or place. You will always be taken seriously, and protection and support is available.