There is no typical victim of slavery.
Victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities. However, exploitation is normally more prevalent among the most vulnerable or within minority or socially excluded groups.
Poverty, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are key issues that contribute to someone’s vulnerability in becoming a victim of modern slavery.
What’s more, victims can often face more than one type of abuse and slavery, for example being sold on to another trafficker and then forced into another form of exploitation.
numbers in slavery
It is estimated that:
Globally it is estimated that one in four victims of modern slavery are children.
In the UK just under half of referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (47%) were individuals who claimed they were exploited as children.
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the UK Government’s system for supporting victims of modern slavery.
Of the 24.9 million victims of forced labour, 16 million people are exploited in the private sector including in domestic work, construction and agriculture.
4.8 million people are victims of forced sexual exploitation, and 4 million are in forced labour imposed by state authorities.
For more facts and figures, check out the data from our Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline.
As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.
For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.
I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.
In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.
What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.
But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.
I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.
This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.
When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.