Types of modern slavery crime

There are several broad categories of exploitation linked to modern slavery:

Sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation involves any non-consensual or abusive sexual acts performed without a victim’s permission. This includes prostitution, escort work and pornography. Women, men and children of both sexes can be victims. Many will have been deceived with promises of a better life and then controlled through violence and abuse. It is also possible to exploit a person who consensually engages in providing sexual services.

Forced labour

Forced/ compulsory labour involves victims being compelled to work very long hours, often in hard conditions without relevant training and equipment, ­and to hand over the majority if not all of their wages to their traffickers. The types of work and working environment can often be described as ‘dirty, demeaning or dangerous’. Forced labour crucially implies the use of coercion and lack of freedom of choice for the victim. In many cases victims are subjected to verbal threats or violence to achieve compliance.

Manufacturing, entertainment, travel, farming and construction industries have been found to use forced labour by victims of human trafficking in various extents. There has been a marked increase in reported numbers in recent years. Often large numbers of people are housed in single dwellings and there is evidence of ‘hot bunking’, where a returning shift takes up the sleeping accommodation of those starting the next shift.

The International Labour Organisation [ILO] has identified six elements which individually or collectively can indicate forced labour. These are:

  • Threats or actual physical harm
  • Restriction of movement and confinement to the workplace or to a limited area
  • Debt-bondage
  • Withholding of wages or excessive wage reductions that violate previously made agreements
  • Retention of passports and identity documents (the workers can neither leave nor prove their identity status) 
  • Threat of denunciation to the authorities regardless of whether the worker holds legal status in the UK or not.

Domestic servitude

Domestic servitude involves the victim being forced to work in private households. Their movement will often be restricted and they will be forced to perform household tasks such as child care and house-keeping over long hours and for little if any pay. Victims will lead very isolated lives and have little or no unsupervised freedom. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor in an open part of the house.

In rare circumstances where victims receive a wage it will be heavily reduced, as they are charged for food and accommodation.

Organ harvesting

Organ harvesting involves trafficking people in order to use their internal organs for transplant. The illegal trade is dominated by demand for kidneys. These are the only major organs that can be wholly transplanted with relatively few risks to the life of the donor.

Child exploitation

Persons under the age of 18 are classified as children in the UK; therefore it is not surprising to see many young people who get caught up in aspects of criminal exploitation. They are particularly vulnerable to exploitation by individual opportunists, traffickers and organised crime groups. They can be deliberately targeted by criminals, or ruthlessly exploited by the people who should protect them. About a quarter of the victims referred to the UK National Referral Mechanism are children, a high proportion of which are older teenagers.

Children can be subjected to any of the exploitative conditions as mentioned above and common countries of origin for victims include Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania, Slovakia and the UK.

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