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Modern Slavery Know the Signs:


  • Signs of physical or psychological abuse 
  • Look malnourished or unkempt
  • Appear withdrawn


  • Restricted freedom of movement
  • Rarely allowed to travel alone
  • Seem under control/influence of others
  • Rarely interact

Living conditions:

  • Living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation
  • Living and working at the same address


  • Have no travel documents/passports
  • Few or no personal possessions
  • Always wear the same clothes
  • Clothes not suitable for their work


  • Unusual travel times
  • Dropped off/collected for work in a regular basis, either very early or late at night
  • Work excessive hours


  • Reluctance to seek help
  • Avoid eye contact
  • Appear frightened or hesitant to talk

Someone is in slavery if they are forced to work, if they are owned or controlled by an employer, if they are dehumanised and treated as a commodity, or bought and sold as ‘property’, or if they are physically constrained or have restrictions placed on their freedom of movement.

There is no ‘typical’ victim of modern slavery. Victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and backgrounds. They are forced into a situation through the use or threat of violence, deception or coercion. Victims may enter the UK legally, or on forged documentation, or they may be a UK citizen living in the UK who is then forced into slavery.

Modern slavery covers a range of exploitation including; human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labour, debt bondage, domestic servitude, criminal activities, child labour, child sexual exploitation and forced and early marriage.

The victims of this appalling serious crime are often subjected to abuse and frightening control methods to maintain their compliance and limit the likelihood that they will feel able to tell anyone of their predicament.  Investigation can be complex and often require a specialist and a multi-agency approach including overseas enquiries. 

Modern slavery a serious organised crime and carries maximum life imprisonment penalties for perpetrators. Sussex Police is committed to tackling modern slavery, prosecuting those responsible and safeguarding victims.

How to report Modern Slavery

Information from communities is vital for law enforcement agencies such as the police to help identify, locate and safeguard victims whilst pursuing the offenders of Modern Slavery. 

Law enforcement agencies, local authorities, non-government organisations and a whole host of partners in the charitable sector provide a large amount of material to help communities familiarise themselves with some of the scenarios where modern slavery may occur.

Armed with some of this information, it is possible that members of the public could spot or encounter a potential victim – or suspect of this type of crime.  They could also have concerns about vehicles, locations or even businesses that are involved that could represent the missing piece of a jigsaw that might safeguard a victim or help prosecute an offender.

Where you think you have encountered something like this we would like you to report it to Sussex Police by phoning:

  • Report it online or call 101
  • You can also report it in person at a police station. Find your nearest police station here.
  • In an emergency always call 999

Alternatively you can contact one of the organisations below for advice, further information or to report:

Human Trafficking is the illegal movement of people through force, fraud or deception, with the intention of exploiting them.

A victim may be transported across national borders in any part of the world or over a short distance within any country.  Trafficking can also include the actions of recruiting, harbouring, receiving or exchanging “control” over victims.

Human trafficking is not the same as people smuggling. People smuggling is undertaken with the consent of those traveling, although there can be links between the two.

Sexual exploitation includes but is not limited to sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, forced prostitution and the abuse of children for the production of child abuse images/videos. For more information visit our Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) page.

Domestic servitude involves a victim being forced to work in usually private households, usually performing domestic chores and childcare duties. Their freedom may be restricted and they may work long hours often for little or no pay, often sleeping where they work.

People held in servitude can include overseas domestic workers who have come to the UK, but also could be a vulnerable member of a family who are not connected with a paid or commercial role.

Forced or compulsory labour is work that is demanded by others with threats or consequences for non-compliance. Victims are often in fear of violence against themselves or their loved ones and are subject to control measures to maintain their position by their abusers.  This type of abuse could exist in almost any industry.

Forced labour and child labour victims may be forced to work long hours for little or no pay in poor conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families.

Debt Bondage or bonded labour is the most widespread form of slavery in the world. A person becomes a bonded labourer when their labour is demanded as a means of repayment for a loan.

The person is then tricked or trapped into working for very little or no pay to repay debts their employer says they owe, and they are not allowed to work for anyone else.

Low wages and increased debts mean not only that they cannot ever hope to pay off the loan, but the debt may be passed down to their children.

Criminal exploitation is the exploitation of a person to commit a crime, such as pick-pocketing, shop-lifting, cannabis cultivation, drug trafficking and other similar activities that are subject to penalties and imply financial gain for the trafficker.

Some modern slavery victims are also involved in fraud or financial crime whereby perpetrators force victims to claim benefits on arrival but the money is withheld, or the victim is forced to take out loans or credit cards.

Attributes associated with signs of modern slavery and human trafficking

Members of the public should think, spot the signs and speak out against the abuse and exploitation of anyone in our community.

There is no typical victim of slavery – victims can be men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities and nationalities and cut across the population. But it is normally more prevalent among the most vulnerable, and within minority or socially excluded groups

Warning signs to look out for include the following:

Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn.

Consider those who might work in nail bars, working in the adult services industry, care or agricultural settings.

Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control or influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.

Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and/or living and working at the same address.

Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.

Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents kept from them such as passports.

You may notice people being dropped off or collected for work on a regular basis, either very early or late at night.

Perpetrators are likely to articulate consequences for those seeking help which might include violence or threats to their family.

Victims may have been coached into believing that authorities are corrupt, would not listen to their allegations or would prioritise immigration status.

It may also be simply that victims are disoriented, unaware of their location and there is a language barrier.

Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons.

They may believe they do not know who to trust or where to get help, fear deportation, or violence to them or their family.

Advice for victims

If you think you are a victim of modern slavery please seek help. You can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

They can assist you to understand what help is available including information, advice and ways to access support. The Modern Slavery Helpline is confidential, but, if you don't want to give your name, you don’t have to.

Visit the Modern Slavery Helpline website for more information.

The Salvation Army can also help. Call their 24 hour helpline: 0800 808 3733 or visit their website.

You can also contact the police online or by calling 101. In an emergency always dial 999.