‘Everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live.’ The words of Steve McQueen, director of 12 Years a Slave as he collected the Oscar for Best Picture, dedicating the award to the millions of people still in slavery today. The film - based on the life of Solomon Northup - told a 150 year-old story, but one that is terrifyingly relevant to the 21st Century: slavery is outlawed, yet more people are slaves than ever. It’s difficult to get exact numbers of slaves worldwide, but conservative estimates put the number at 21 million, with many experts suggesting that this figure is only the tip of the iceberg. Of those, roughly a quarter are, in some way, sexually exploited. To put that into historical context, one detailed estimate suggested that over the 350 years of the Trans- Atlantic slave trade (which ended in the mid nineteenth century), 12.5 million people, in total, were taken from Africa. In 1809, with figures adjusted for inflation, the average price of a slave would have been $40,000; today it is just $90. Humans are being bought and sold for the price of two months of your iPhone bill. Despite the cheap price, the slave market is the second most profitable criminal activity worldwide, behind the drugs trade, with some estimates placing the profits at $32 billion. This isn’t a new problem; in the Bible we see the Israelites enslaved in Egypt and we celebrate what William Willberforce did - but still it goes on. This is a huge, global, underground problem, and unless something is done, it isn’t going anywhere.  



The figures for 2012 (based on positive and outstanding referrals, alongside intelligence) put the number of potential victims in the UK at 2,255. The Home Office has said that these are just the people known about, and believe there are many more ‘unseen and unheard victims’. Of the 1,186 potential victims referred in 2012, 786 were female and 400 male; 815 were adults and 371 were children. These figures are a 48 per cent increase on those from 2009.



Not all exploitation is trafficking. For exploitation (labour, commercial or sexual), to be classed as trafficking it must involve force (violence, rape, confinement), fraud (false promises, lying about wages or working conditions, posing as a false agency) or coercion (threats, blackmail, confiscation of documents). But what does this look like? Love 146 is a charity that specialises in fighting child slavery and exploitation. Here are some stories of children they have worked with, who have since been released or rescued from slavery:



Serey was one of seven children and money was tight. A woman came to Serey’s town and offered her work as a salesgirl in a department store in the city. But instead of taking her to a department store, the woman took her to a bar which was a front for a brothel. Her parents didn’t hear from Serey. After months of staying in the brothel due to threats of violence and isolation, she managed to get hold of a phone and get a message to her family. Her brother and father rushed to the city, but after finding the brothel were told she wasn’t there.



Caleb didn’t have parents. His brother went to work in another city when he was 16 and Caleb lived on the streets of the red light district with other boys. Their only way of making money for food and shelter was by giving in to the demands of foreigners on holiday in his country. When he didn’t make enough money for a room his only option was the streets – a haven of drug abuse, alcoholism and violence.  


Slavery: the system where people are treated as property (i.e. bought and sold). This is outlawed in all countries, but still happens, either under the guise of debt bondage, forced marriage or forced labour.

Human Trafficking: The trade and movement of humans either between or within countries, with the intent of exploiting those being moved.

Exploitation:  Taking advantage of someone’s vulnerabilities. This could be linked to slavery, or the working and pay conditions that many people around the world exist under, forcing them into slavery.


Ann Marie:

Ann Marie’s parents separated and left her with an aunt and uncle. At 13 she was told she was being taken to be educated but was instead given to a ‘holy man’ called ‘Daddy’. She was told not to leave the religious compound of her family, or she would be punished by God. She was raped in religious rituals that would ‘cleanse her of sins’, and was given a pamphlet on prayer each time. She managed to escape but returned, scared her family would be hurt and killed. She was one of three survivors to testify against ‘Daddy’ but needed armed guards to attend the trial.



For many people being trafficked or in slavery, there may have been an initial ‘choice’ to sell themselves. However, this ‘choice’ is not that simple. Tim Waldron, from Love 146 told Premier Youthwork this story: ‘We worked with young people in Moldova. Walls over there are plastered with job adverts for modelling agencies, dance work and bar work – most of these are fronts for trafficking. The “job” is different to the one advertised.

The reality is that they know what they’re getting into, but their situation is so dire that they’re willing to take that risk. In one classroom we worked in, only one out of 30 pupils said they wanted to stay in Moldova, and we were later told that this was because her mum was terminally ill. They’re willing to take risks to get somewhere else and they’re being exploited because of that.’ The reality is that the sex industry and human trafficking continues to exist because of two things: the demand for sex and global poverty forcing people into these ‘choices’. The fight to combat modern day slavery cannot be divorced from the need to eradicate global poverty. 



The next year should see The Modern Slavery Bill go through the UK parliament (it is currently going through the committee stage). The Bill is the first of its kind in Europe and was introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May.


The Bill (in the Home Office’s own words) will:

Consolidate existing human trafficking and slavery offences to make the options available to law enforcement simpler.

Increase the maximum sentence for human trafficking to life imprisonment.

Introduce an Anti-slavery Commissioner to galvanise efforts in the UK to challenge modern slavery by working with government and law-enforcement agencies to realise more investigations, prosecutions and convictions of human traffickers.

Introduce slavery and trafficking prevention orders and slavery and trafficking risk orders to restrict movements or impose other prohibitions on convicted or suspected traffickers pose.

Create a new requirement for ‘first responders’ to report all suspected cases of human trafficking to the national referral mechanism (NRM).


In a forward to the Bill, Theresa May said:

‘Modern slavery is an appalling crime. It affects victims in ways that are almost incomprehensible. Sadly it is very real and it is happening in towns and cities all over the world. And it is happening here in the UK. We can no longer allow men, women and children of all races, cultures, nationalities and ages to go unseen. We need to take action.

The nature of this crime is so multi-faceted that it should not be put in one box. Addressing this issue requires tireless and coordinated effort across government and law enforcement; enhanced cooperation with foreign partners; and increased awareness within communities across the UK. This government has already taken steps and sought to understand the enormity of the problem… let’s be clear; this is organised crime perpetrated by criminal gangs with links all over the world.

This government is committed to tackling modern slavery in all its forms. I have therefore set up a Modern Slavery Unit in the Home Office, and it will be responsible for ensuring that we tackle this problem from every angle, whilst always keeping the plight of victims at the very heart of our policies and in everything we do. I am determined to expose this hidden crime; to stop it at source; to bring more perpetrators to justice; and to protect and support victims. I hope you are too.’ 




May has acknowledged that law-making will not, by itself, be enough to solve the entire problem, and so will be unveiling details of an action plan to go alongside the Bill later in the spring. Her aim is to pass the legislation by the end of the current Parliament, before the general election next year. While the existence of the Bill has been met with a positive response from campaigners and charities who focus on this issue, many have commented that, in its current guise, the Bill doesn’t go far enough:

The Bill doesn’t offer enough protection for the victims.

Jakub Sobik of Anti-Slavery International has expressed concern about this, as the current National Referral Mechanism provides and cares for victims for 40 days, but offers no specialised care after this point. This particularly applies to children, many of whom go missing when put into local authority care systems. Tim Waldron, from Love 146 told us: ‘The lack of specialist accommodation is adding to the vulnerability of children. They end up in social services and many go missing. There needs to be specialist accommodation and this doesn’t feature in the Bill.’ There are also concerns that the victims will be unlikely to give evidence against traffickers if they could face prosecution themselves for illegal acts they have been forced to commit.

 • The Bill focuses on prevention rather than enforcement.

A statement from Stop the Traffik said, ‘We support the need for stronger enforcement, however we know that enforcement alone will not end this crime.’ Kate Dangerfield from Stop the Traffik told us: ‘Sadly the prevention elements of the Modern Slavery Bill feature in the wider, non-legislative package that feature as part of the action plan, but won’t be legislation. If we’re going to tackle human trafficking we need to tackle it across all sections of society. We would love to see training for all frontline professionals in this area.’

• The Bill does not focus on the lack of transparency among supply chains in big companies.

Soul Action, a part of Soul Survivor, presented a petition to the Home Office in 2013, calling for a transparency and supply chains bill which would force any company generating over £100m to guarantee that their supply chain is slave-free throughout. Simon Nicholls from Soul Action told Premier Youthwork: ‘This isn’t in the Bill, but it’s the bit that would make a huge difference. Around 80 per cent of the cocoa and coffee beans in Africa are grown by modern day slaves, those in bonded labour. In India you can get three generations of a family working in a government-funded salt mine, all because of one grandfather’s debt. They introduced this bill in California, and the Centre for Social Justice’s report on modern slavery included a cover letter from the governor of California urging the UK to do this.’ Soul Action’s petition also included a request to use the aid budget to incentivise countries to start to combat slavery going on in their own country. Simon said, ‘The poorest countries are where people are bought and sold the most, so in this instance, the aid would only come if they were working towards targets to combat slavery.

• The Bill is undermined by current immigration laws.

Taimour Lay, an immigration barrister who represents victims of trafficking, said that the Bill was undermined by the Home Office’s current stance on immigration. He said: ‘The Modern Slavery Bill is a good thing but it’s being introduced by a government that has done much to poison the environment for migrants, and refugees in particular. If you’re here unlawfully, being abused or formerly trafficked, it is the raids, criminalisation and detention that keep you from coming forward to seek help. There is a gap between the rhetoric accompanying the Slavery Bill and the reality for victims who are regularly denied protection or subsequent leave to remain in the UK. If we accept that Theresa May cares about trafficked sex workers, why are victims of trafficking routinely removed from this country to situations where they are at risk of re-trafficking? And why is so little done to punish the traffickers? I’ve had three recent cases where the police never even investigated the men who owned the cannabis farm on which a trafficked child was found.’

Frank Field MP, chair of the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill told Premier Youthwork: ‘The Bill as it stands would be an improvement; I don’t think anybody questions that. But what everybody does think is that if it went through [as it stands], an opportunity would have been squandered. So it’s about trying to persuade the Home Secretary so she gets a great Bill which not only is immensely effective in this country and on the supply chains, but is also a model that other countries look to follow, which it won’t do as it currently stands.’ Mr Field also intimated that the evidence put before the committee had been overwhelmingly supportive of many of the changes previously listed, especially the need to make the Bill more victim-focused and to include measures to ensure transparency in supply chains.

We presented these concerns to the Home Office. A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The draft Modern Slavery Bill is an important step in our fight against this abhorrent crime. The issues raised have been looked at in detail by the pre-legislative scrutiny committee. We will give full and proper consideration to all of the committee’s recommendations when they are published.’ Guidance from the Home Office also said that modern slavery is a complex and multi-faceted problem and legislation is just part of the solution. Where practical and where it is required they will legislate, but they also have a duty to take action now where they can. They are also working with source countries to try and stop people becoming victims in the first place, and talking to businesses about being transparent about their supply chains.

Tim Waldron from Love 146 warned that too much effort to change the Bill may undermine the importance of the Bill passing. He said: ‘It’s important to understand the aims of the Bill – it’s the first bill in a programme to tackle slavery in the UK on a tight time-scale before the election next year and the end of the current parliament. Trying to pass it before then is a priority – so it’s a short piece of legislation that doesn’t cover all of the policy ideals that many of us would like to see. If every organisation lobbies for its own bits and changes then it will get held up in scrutiny and the agenda may be lost with the general election next year. It doesn’t do everything, but we understand the reasons why it doesn’t and we will be holding them to their promise that this won’t be the last piece of legislation on this issue.’



Slavery isn’t something happening on the other side of the world, but something happening today, in the UK, on our streets and in our communities. The likelihood is that some youth workers reading this magazine will work with victims of slavery without even knowing it. Many of our young people will know victims and have no idea. All young people could be vulnerable to being trafficked or forced into slavery, and youth workers are often in positions or have the training to spot things that other workers or parents may not notice. Fortunately, as well as the Modern Slavery Bill, there are lots of organisations already working in this area.

Hope for Justice is a UK-based organisation dedicated to fighting human trafficking. They also offer training for those on the front line (social workers, police officers etc.) to help them identify possible victims, and have highlighted some key signs to look out for. If you do spot any young people exhibiting these signs it is vital you don’t act on them by yourself. Slavery and trafficking is criminal activity carried out by dangerous criminals. If you or your young people suspect anyone to be a victim of slavery you should contact the police or other relevant authorities.

General Indicators

Trafficking victims are often lured into another country by false promises and so may not easily trust others. They may:

Be fearful of police / authorities

Be fearful of the trafficker, believing their lives or family members’ lives are at risk if they escape

Exhibit signs of physical and psychological trauma e.g. anxiety, lack of memory of recent events, bruising, untreated conditions

Be fearful of telling others about their situation

Be unaware they have been trafficked and believe they are simply in a bad job

Have limited freedom of movement

Be unpaid or paid very little

Have limited access to medical care

Seem to be in debt to someone

Have no passport or mention that someone else is holding their passport

Be regularly moved to avoid detection

Be controlled by use of witchcraft e.g. Ju Ju.

Sexual Exploitation

They may:

Be moved between brothels, sometimes from city to city

Sleeping on work premises

Display a limited amount of clothing, of which a large proportion is sexual

Display substance misuse

Be forced, intimidated or coerced into providing sexual services

Be subjected to abduction, assault or rape

Be unable to travel freely e.g. picked up and dropped off at work location by another person

Have money for their services provided or collected by another person

Be aware: ordinary residential housing / hotels are being used more and more.

Forced Labour:

Where all the work is done under the menace of a penalty or the person has not offered himself voluntarily and is now unable to leave. They may experience:

Threat or actual physical harm

Restriction of movement or confinement

Debt bondage i.e. working to pay off a debt or loan, often the victim is paid very little or nothing at all for their services because of deductions

Withholding of wages or excessive wage reductions

Withholding of documents e.g. passport / security card

Threat of revealing to authorities an irregular immigration status

Their employer is unable to produce documents required

Poor or non-existent health and safety standards

Requirement to pay for tools and food

Imposed place of accommodation (and deductions made for it)

Pay that is less than minimum wage

Dependence on employer for services

No access to labour contract

Excessive work hours / few breaks

Child Abuse:

You may notice a child that is:

Often going missing / truanting


Has unexplained money / presents

Experimenting with drugs / alcohol

Associating with / being groomed by older people (not in normal networks)

In relationships with significantly older people

Taking part in social activities with no plausible explanation

Seen entering or leaving vehicles with unknown adults

Showing evidence of physical / sexual assault (including STD’s)

Showing signs of low self-image / self-harm / eating disorder.

Criminal Activities:

The person is recruited and forced / deceived into conducting some form of criminal activity such as pick pocketing, begging, cannabis cultivation or benefit fraud. This could have the same indicators as for forced labour but with cannabis cultivation you may also notice:

Windows of property are permanently covered from the inside

Visits to property are at unusual times

Property may be residential

Unusual noises coming from the property e.g. machinery

Pungent smells coming from the property 



Rebecca Clarke, from Hope for Justice told Premier Youthwork how important young people are in fighting this issue: ‘Young people are so passionate about this issue once they grasp hold of it. Two young film makers pitched to HSBC and won £10,000 to do a documentary about slavery and trafficking in their local area after hearing someone from Hope for Justice speak. Young people have so much passion, but are also practical and thoughtful; looking at what they can do with what they’ve got. They want to use their lives to make a difference. For youth leaders this is a great opportunity to cultivate a culture among young people of fighting for issues that matter. This is bigger than trafficking – let’s inspire a generation to get involved.’

Simon Nicholls from Soul Action said: ‘This definitely fires young people up. They know it’s wrong, and know we have to do something about it. The problem is that it’s really easy to sign something and then forget about it, but we’re seeing older young people and those in their 20s committing their lives to do something about it. Helping them engage is wider than just this issue; it’s whole-life discipleship that needs to happen across the board. Justice isn’t something we just look at, it’s a whole lifestyle.’

Tim Waldron from Love 146 said: ‘They need to understand the issue, but once they do, they engage with it and want to do something about it. It’s a difficult issue because it can often be horrific, but the reality of seeing other young people who are ultimately the same as them, irrespective of skin colour and cultural identity, means that young people “get” this issue more than anyone else.’


As big and scary as this issue is, it’s not an insurmountable one, and youth workers can be part of a multifaceted approach to fighting it. Theresa May is working on prosecuting traffickers, charities are working with support victims and youth workers can do the preventative work and spot the signs. But youth workers also have an even bigger, more exciting role to play. If we can inspire our young people to become part of a generation that is appalled by the thought of purchasing products made by slaves, and appalled by the thought of purchasing sex, then demand will diminish.

This is not an issue we can ignore. It might feel so overwhelming that we want to run away and do nothing, but our freedom comes with choice and responsibility – use yours to make a difference.


Soul Action: STAND is a six-session programme that gives the whole picture of justice and it’s centrality to discipleship - . Soul Action continues to run and facilitate Slum Survivors, weekends where youth groups sleep rough to raise awareness of global poverty, and raise money through doing so.

Tearfund: Rhythms: Rhythms is an app and website designed to help young people live out a life of justice through their everyday choices - 

MTV Exit: MTV Exit is a multimedia resource, designed to raise awareness of human trafficking. The website features loads of videos, many hosted by celebrities, designed to inspire young people to do something about this issue - The Inhuman Trafficking film (hosted by Angelina Jolie) goes through the story and journey of those who have been trafficked, and shows how the things we buy and choices we make, such as watching porn or buying drugs, have a very real impact on the sex trade.

Crimes toppers: Fearless: Love 146 have written a curriculum about exploitation for the youth wing of the Crimestoppers website, fearless - 

Stop the Traffik: Stop the Traffik is running two campaigns that young people can get involved with affecting their everyday choices. One is a campaign for traffick-free chocolate, and the other ‘Make fashion traffik-free’ campaign is asking retailers and brands to supply information about their projects as there is currently no way to know if items are traffick-free. More information on both, ways to get involved and petitions are on the Stop the Traffik website -

Hope for Justice: Hope for Justice is touring the UK in May with the ‘Hope for Justice + You’ tour, which is an opportunity for young people to hear about this issue, realise the power their own life has and be inspired. More details are available at hopeforjustice.

PREMIER YOUTH WORK MAGAZINE: Head to p28 for a four-part series of meeting guides from Tearfund to help your young people engage with this issue.

NOT FOR SALE: Premier is currently running a ‘Not for Sale’ campaign, and the website ( has a video explaining the campaign which you could show to a youth group or church.