World Day Against Trafficking

To mark the UN's World Day Against Trafficking, here are some myths and facts about trafficking in the UK today.

Myth: trafficking affects foreigners

Wrong. In fact, nearly a quarter of all victims of trafficking found in the UK last year were British, making this the most common victim nationality, followed by Albanian (13%) and Vietnamese (10%).

How are British people trafficked? Homeless people offered jobs that turn out to come with threats and without pay; teenagers groomed into criminal exploitation by gangs; girls and women forced into prostitution by abusive partners or by organised criminals: all of these and more would involve trafficking.

Myth: Human trafficking involves crossing an international border

Human trafficking means moving someone by means such as force, fraud, coercion or deception, with the aim of exploiting them. It is a form of modern slavery.

You don't have to cross an international border, and much trafficking takes place within countries. It could even mean taking someone just next door.

Myth: Most victims of trafficking are smuggled into the UK

Not true. For a start many are British. But even among those that did travel to the UK, more than half of those reported to the Modern Slavery Helpline in 2018 arrived by plane (where means of transport was known).

The most common methods of travel to the UK by potential victims (PVs) in 2018 were by plane (732 PVs); bus or coach (232 PVs); car (124 PVs); boat (63 PVs); and lorry (53 PVs).

Harriet's story

Harriet grew up on a quiet street of a British city. Inside the house, it wasn’t quiet. Harriet’s father was violent, and would hit Harriet and her mother and little sisters. Harriet lost interest in school, and started to spend a lot of time as far away from home as possible. By the time her parents separated, she was already drinking and taking drugs.

When Harriet was 15, members of a local gang started offering her money, drugs and alcohol to take drugs between UK cities and smaller towns. She found herself with addiction issues, and being forced to sleep with gang members alongside drug running – which she was not paid for.

Too frightened by the gang's threats and manipulation to escape, it was not until Harriet was arrested on a drugs run that she told anyone what was happening to her, and was recognised as a victim of modern slavery.

Harriet was placed in the Unseen Women’s Safehouse where she was offered help for her addiction issues, alongside sexual health checks. She and her family received support to enable her to go home to them, including putting in place an outreach worker for her.

What can I do?

Download the Unseen App for a pocket guide to the signs of trafficking and to report concerns to the Helpline.

Donate to Unseen to support survivors like Harriet rebuild their lives in our safehouses.