What is Human Trafficking?

Although human trafficking can take many forms at their core is the control and exploitation of the vulnerable for the profit and gain of their traffickers.

The UN Palermo Protocol provides a definition of which can be simplified as:

The acquisition of a person;

By means of deception or coercion;

For the purpose of exploitation

Facts and Figures

Estimates range from 21 million to 45 million people held in modern slavery around the world today.

The fastest growing international crime and the second largest source of illegal income worldwide, with estimated profits of $150 billion per year.

Human Trafficking in the UK

In 2016, 3,805 potential victims from 108 different countries of origin were referred into the National Referral Mechanism. In reality, however, the extent of human trafficking in the UK is likely to be far greater than the NRM statistics would suggest. The Home Office has estimated in its Modern Slavery Strategy that there may be as many as 13,000 people held in slavery in the UK.

Exploitation in the UK takes a variety of forms, but most commonly forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced criminal activity.

A full breakdown of the NRM statistics can be found here.

The UK’s approach is now governed by the Modern Slavery Act. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, Human Trafficking and Exploitation Acts are also in force.

Trafficking or Smuggling?

Human trafficking and smuggling are often confused.  Although there is often some overlap between instances of trafficking and smuggling, they are legally distinct.

Smuggling involves facilitating someone’s illegal passage over an international border, and once they reach the final destination the ‘customer’ is generally left to their own devices.

Human trafficking, by contrast, involves force, threats and deception and specifically targets the trafficked person as an object of criminal exploitation for labour or services. Human trafficking doesn’t necessarily involve crossing any border: there are many instances of internal trafficking.