Modern Slavery (or Human Trafficking) involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people who, with the threat of, or use of force, coercion, abduction, abuse of power or deception are exploited for the purposes of prostitution, forced labour, slavery or other similar practices.

Men, women and children can all be victims of Modern Slavery and there is evidence that this type of activity is taking place in Essex. 

Specialist Police Officers believe that people are almost certainly trafficked into and out of the country through the Essex ports of Tilbury and Harwich and the Essex airports of Stansted and Southend. Some of these people are forced to work in places like cannabis factories, nail bars, brothels and car washes. In recent years, police investigations in some parts of the country have explored whether vulnerable people, often British nationals, have been used as forced labour and effectively held as slaves. 

It is important that professionals and members of the general public alike are aware of possible indicators that a person is a victim of trafficking and that people know how to raise concerns through the most appropriate channels.

Tell tale signs that someone is a victim of modern slavery / human trafficking

Victims are trafficked all over the world including in and around the UK for little or no money.  They might be found working in the sex trade, in domestic service and in places such as: nail bars, restaurants and car washes.  Victims may be forced to become involved in criminal activity or even to have their organs removed to be sold. There is no typical victim. Some victims do not even understand they are being exploited and are entitled to help and support.

Key indicators that someone could be a victim of Modern Slavery or human trafficking might be any of the following:

  • A person whose passport, identification or travel documents are being held by someone else
  • A person who appears to have been 'coached' or told what to say in certain circumstances and who allows others to speak on their behalf even when spoken to directly and when capable of responding for themselves
  • A person who is recruited for one purpose and forced to engage in some other job
  • A person whose transport or other costs have been paid for by facilitators and the person being forced into work or providing services in order to pay back the facilitators
  • A person living in accommodation with multiple people where conditions are cramped and living conditions are poor
  • A person receiving little or no payment for their work, raising the question, "Is someone else in control of their earnings?"
  • A person being dropped off and collected from work and who does not appear to have freedom of movement.
  • A person regularly appearing withdrawn, timid or frightened, raising the question, "Has the person or their family been threatened with harm if they attempt to escape?"
  • A person who is under the impression they are bonded by debt, or in a situation of dependence
  • A person who has been physically or emotionally harmed or deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care or other life necessities
  • A child or young person who is not in school or any other form of education or training.

Victims are unlikely to seek help themselves because they do not always realise that they are being exploited.  Also, because victims are often trafficked to foreign countries where they cannot speak the language and have had their travel and identity documents taken off them; they do not know how to communicate their situation to others.  It is also quite likely that victims have been told that they, or their families, will be harmed if they tell anyone about their situation or try to escape.

It is important to remember that modern slavery, or trafficking, does not just relate to people being moved from one country to another but can also include: the transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people within the same country, county or town and where there is the threat or use of force, coercion, abduction, deception, fraud or abuse of power to achieve this movement.

Report a concern

If you are concerned that someone may be the victim of modern slavery or sexual exploitation, or you have suspicions about perpetrators of these crimes you should report it in one of the following ways:

  • If you think modern slavery / trafficking is putting someone in immediate danger:
    • call Essex Police: 999
  • If you want to report suspected human trafficking:
    • call the Modern Slavery Helpline: 08000 121 700
  • If you are an adult victim of human trafficking or want to refer a potential adult victim of human trafficking:
    • call The Salvation Army 24 hour confidential referral helpline: 0300 303 8151
    • call 'Stop the Traffik' 24 hour hotline for victims of human trafficking: 020 7921 4258
  • To report child victims of human trafficking or child victims in danger of being trafficked:
    • call Essex County Council Children's Social Care: 0345 603 7627 (out of office hours: 0345 606 1212)
    • call the NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre: 0808 800 5000

Help and support

For more information and advice about safeguarding against modern slavery and human trafficking, see:

Contact Safeguarding Team
Safeguarding Team
01268 533333
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