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Identifying Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

Slavery is almost as old as civilization itself. It was with the discovery and implementation of agriculture and animal husbandry that humans renounced their nomadic way of life and began settling down.

It was also at this time when it became materially profitable for one person to own another, resulting in what's known as a hierarchical society. In fact, the oldest ever written records, those coming to us from Mesopotamia, talk about how to own slaves. They talked about what was allowed for masters and slaves to do and what wasn’t, among other administrative issues.

Fast-forward to today, and it would seem that slavery is just a dark chapter in our past. But the sad reality of the matter is that slavery is not only still alive, but it's thriving.

The Overwhelming Statistics

Today, there are more slaves than at any other time in human history. A rough estimate points to some 27 to 30 million people in total, a quarter of which are children. And while it's safe to say that impoverished countries such as Haiti or Mauritania with 2.1 and 4 percent respectively, have more slaves per capita, not even developed countries are exempt from this plight.

In the United States, for instance, there are an estimated 60,000 modern slaves, either coerced into some form of forced labor or sex trafficking. Other regions of the world, such as Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, are also battling with a rapid increase in sex trafficking. India, on the other hand, has around 14 million people who can be considered slaves, due in large part to the caste system.

Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Indicators

In broad terms, human trafficking is the practice of recruitment, harboring and transportation of people against their will through the use of force, coercion, or deception. These victims are often driven into slavery using violence, threats or imprisonment, and forced to work or perform specific tasks against their will.

Below are some of the signs that may indicate human trafficking and/or modern slavery:

● The person is living with their employer

● Poor or cramped living conditions

● Multiple people living or working in a cramped space

● The inability to speak to the individual alone

● Their answers seem to be scripted and rehearsed

● The employer is holding their identity documents

● They present signs of physical abuse

● They have a submissive or fearful demeanor

● They are unpaid or paid very little

● They are under 18 and involved in prostitution

How to React and Where to Get Help

If you believe that you've encountered someone in a human trafficking or modern slavery situation, you should alert law enforcement immediately. Many countries and jurisdictions have a Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery hotline for reporting suspicious circumstances or alerting the authorities to potential abuse or victimization. Unseen in the UK is leading the way with ground-breaking work in this area, and are making a real impact in terms of victim identification and support as well as public awareness and education. It is generally unsafe to try and rescue the victim yourself unless they are in immediate physical danger. There is no telling how the trafficker may retaliate against you or the victim.

However, if you have identified a person who has already escaped their situation, many organizations can help the victim by offering them shelter, legal assistance, medical care, and other critical services. If this is the case, call the available National Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Hotline on the relevant number below or the one that covers your region.


Human trafficking and modern slavery are serious threats and an ongoing reality for millions of individuals, including children, all over the world. It is vital that everyone understands the gravity of this epidemic and is aware of the many ways it can manifest in our own communities. If you suspect that someone is a victim, please report your suspicions using one of the numbers below:

United States National Human Trafficking Hotline - 1-888-373-7888

United Kingdom Modern Slavery Helpline - 0800-012-1700

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