There are more slaves today worldwide than there have been at any other point in history

These facts and figures can cause us to feel hopeless and overwhelmed by the scale and horror of the problem. However, Unseen is a charity concerned with helping to fight human trafficking on all levels and was established with the belief that change can be made.

1. Human trafficking is the fastest growing form of international crime and is now the second largest illegal trade in the world.

2. It is estimated that 600,000 – 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year (i).

3. Poverty, gender-based discrimination and a history of sexual and physical violence are all factors that can make women and children vulnerable to traffickers. Some are abducted and sold, some are deceived into consenting by the promise of a better life or job, and some feel that entrusting themselves to traffickers is the only economically viable option (ii).

4. The UK is a significant destination country for women, children and men to be trafficked into the sex trade (iii).

5. One woman can earn a trafficker between £500 and £1000 a week, that’s £26,000-£52,000 per year from one victim (iv). Trafficking for sexual exploitation is a high-profit and low-risk endeavour for traffickers, yet this could not be further from the truth for the women and children they are exploiting within the sex industry (v); some women are forced to work 16 hours and have sex with multiple men a day.

6. Most women and children trafficked for sexual exploitation suffer extreme violations of their human rights, including the right to liberty, the right to dignity and security of person, the right not to be held in slavery or involuntary servitude, the right to be free from cruel and inhumane treatment, the right to be free from violence and the right to health.

7. Physical violence, psychological torture, physical restraint in the form of locks and guards, drugging, and instilling fear through threats are just some of the ways traffickers control their victims (vi).

8. If trafficked-women are rescued or manage to escape, immigration policies in the UK can put them at risk of deportation. This makes women very vulnerable to re-trafficking, to becoming perpetrators of trafficking or to being rejected by their families and communities; some of whom may have sold them in the first place.

9. Whilst the help available to victims of human trafficking in the UK is limited, there is legislation in place to support these women once identified. However, if these women are not identified as victims of trafficking or they do not fulfil the specific criteria, for example being willing to testify against their traffickers (vii), then they risk being labelled as illegal immigrants without the help and support of groups working to aid these women, and they often slip through the gaps and are denied any specific support or opportunity.


i. U.S. Department of State (2005) Trafficking in Persons Report, revised June 2005. USA: U.S. Department of State Publication
ii. Women, Health and Development Program (2001) Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation. USA: Pan American Health Organization.
iii. House of Commons: Home Affairs Committee (2009) The Trade in Human Beings: Human Trafficking in the UK, Sixth Report of Session 2008-09. London: The Stationery Office Ltd.
iv. House of Commons: Home Affairs Committee (2009) The Trade in Human Beings: Human Trafficking in the UK, Sixth Report of Session 2008-09. London: The Stationery Office Ltd.
v. Women, Health and Development Program (2001) Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation. USA: Pan American Health Organization.
vi. Women, Health and Development Program (2001) Trafficking for Sexual Exploitation. USA: Pan American Health Organization.
vii. Home Office (2007) UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking. London: TSO.

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