8,300 Enslaved in the United Kingdom

There are an estimated 8,300 people in modern slavery in United Kingdom – this is equivalent to 0.013% of the entire population.

According to government records, the most prominent form of modern slavery identified in the United Kingdom (UK) is trafficking of foreign nationals and UK citizens for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour, which affects both adults and children. Though the numbers of UK nationals trafficked outside of the country are small, there have been some cases identified.

Victims of forced labour in the UK are most commonly identified in the paving block and tarmacking industry. Victims claimed they had been trafficked by members of the Gypsy-Traveller community based in the UK. UK nationals can be trafficked into the construction industry or for commercial sexual exploitation. Cases of modern slavery of foreign nationals have been reported in low skill occupations such as those in factories, agriculture, food preparation, processing and packaging, as well as in restaurants, nail salons, and door-to-door leaflet delivery. Forced criminality, such as cannabis cultivation, has been documented, affecting Vietnamese children exploited in cannabis factories or farms.

In 2013, data from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and informants identified that 2,744 potential victims of human trafficking were encountered in the UK, an increase of 22 percent from 2012. The majority of potential victims were from Romania (307), Poland (239), UK (193), Albania (192) and Nigeria (158).9 Comparatively, during the first quarter of 2014, 566 adults and children were referred to the National Referral Mechanism. Of these, 195 were officially recognised as victims of modern slavery, while another 218 await a Conclusive Decision.10 As adults must consent to be referred to the NRM, it is evident that the figures solely from the NRM are not indicative of the true scale of modern slavery in the UK.

There is evidence of sexual exploitation of UK children who are trafficked within the UK by organised or semi-organised gangs, groups, and networks. Girls are groomed by groups of young men who sometimes, after convincing the girls they are in love, force them to perform sexual acts. Some of these girls are moved between groups and gangs for further sexual exploitation. A recent report on child sexual abuse in Rotherham over the period 1997 to 2013, revealed that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited during this period. Many of these were trafficked by gangs to other towns in the North of England.

Foreign domestic workers, predominately from the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Nigeria and Morocco, can be vulnerable to exploitation under the Overseas Domestic Worker Visa, a legal framework that ties domestic workers to their employers. Cases have been identified where women have been lured to the UK with offers of employment as domestic workers only to have their passports confiscated and conditions of employment changed. Many of these individuals were deprived adequate food, contact with their families, and freedom of movement. Victims found that their salaries, if paid, were a fraction of what they had been promised.

Government response rating: BBB

The general characteristics of a country that has received a rating of BBB are as follows:
The government has implemented key components of a holistic response to modern slavery, with victim support services, a strong criminal justice response, evidence of coordination and collaboration, and protections in place for vulnerable populations. Governments may be beginning to address slavery in supply chains of government procurement, or of businesses operating within their territory. There may be evidence that some government policies and practices may criminalise and/or cause victims to be deported.

The UK has made some progress against the recommendations published in the Global Slavery Index last year. Provisions requiring companies to publicly disclose what action they have taken each year to ensure that their supply chain is slavery-free is a welcome addition and reflects this input. Further amendments are necessary, however, to ensure that the Bill provides stronger protections for victims of modern slavery,1 particularly for children. The current draft of the Bill does not create a specific offence of child exploitation, nor a system of legal guardianship.


The United Kingdom benefits from a high level of social and economic development and strong rule of law with little institutional corruption. The UK’s most vulnerable groups are migrant workers, illegal migrants, asylum seekers, and vulnerable individuals like homeless people and people suffering with learning difficulties, as recent cases in the British media have shown.30 Children, particularly refugee, asylum seeking, non-EU and UK children in care, are also vulnerable.

More in depth details here.

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