Human Trafficking

We are campaigning for victims of slavery to live Free for Good.

When someone escapes from slavery, they need somewhere safe to say, medical treatment, mental health support, legal advice, education and support to rebuild their life.

Unlike victims of modern slavery in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the law in England and Wales does not currently give victims a right to support. This has left many victims of modern slavery homeless, destitute and at risk of being retrafficked. 

CARE has joined leading anti-trafficking charities and businesses to form the Free for Good campaign, which backs the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. This Bill will give all victims 12 months of support in law. 

Reducing modern slavery starts with putting the needs of victims first.

What is human trafficking?



Human trafficking involves recruiting, transporting or holding a person by use of threats, coercion or deception in order to exploit them. Essentially, it is the oppression and abuse of people motivated by financial or personal gain. It is often described as a form of modern day slavery.  

Trafficking happens in all parts of the world, both across international borders and within countries. Because trafficking is, by nature, a hidden and secretive crime, it is hard to know precisely how many people are affected. However, research shows there are now more people enslaved around the world than in all the 400 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. An estimated 40 million people are in modern day slavery worldwide. Trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most common globally with 54 per cent of all identified victims. Forced labour and domestic servitude is the second most prevalent, accounting for 38 per cent victims.

Does trafficking really happen in the UK?

Each year about 5,000 men, women and children are identified as possible victims of trafficking in the UK, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thought to be 10,000 – 13,000 victims of modern slavery in the UK. A 2018 estimate by the Walk Free Foundation suggests there may be ten times that number: 136,000 people hidden in modern slavery in the UK.

Over 5,000 referrals were made to the UK authorities in 2017, where people were identified as potential victims of trafficking. This is an increase of one third from 2016 and includes individuals from 116 countries and over 2,000 children. 34% of these people referred were in sexual exploitation and 46% were in labour exploitation.

A 2018 report by the Home Office estimates that the average cost for a single victim in the UK is £328,720. This includes the cost of physical and emotional harm to the victim (£271,190), health and victim care costs (£2,560 combined), and the law enforcement costs (£7,730). This cost to the victim is second only to homicide.

Many people who end up being trafficked are looking for legitimate work. Traffickers prey on this desire and often deceive people into coming with them to another country with the promise of a good job. Only on arrival do victims discover the truth as they are forced into prostitution or harsh working conditions.

Most people trafficked to the UK come from Nigeria, Vietnam, Albania, Romania, China and Sudan, but victims come from all over the world (116 nations in 2017). The UK is also among the top 10 ‘source’ countries for trafficking victims in our own country. In particular, British children are being trafficked by organised groups. They groom them, developing relationships, often plying them with gifts, alcohol and drugs, before forcing them into prostitution or to sell drugs in towns across the country (so-called “county lines” activity). British men are also being trafficked within the UK for exploitative labour.

Victims of trafficking are often tricked into coming to the UK by false promises or because of threats against them or their family.  People are trafficked into prostitution, pornography, agricultural and building labour, manufacturing, domestic servitude, forced begging, benefit fraud, petty criminality and organ removal. They are forced to work for little or no pay; they may have limited freedom and poor living conditions. Many experience physical or emotional abuse.


In 2015 several new laws were passed giving the UK its first dedicated legislation to combat modern day slavery and human trafficking in almost 200 years. These laws are:

These laws were a great step forward, but there are still ways to improve how we prevent trafficking and support those affected by it. CARE is working to ensure that the laws are implemented effectively and we are continuing to call for further action where we believe it is needed.

Our Work

What is CARE doing?

CARE believes that every person is made in the image of God and that human trafficking is a violation of that fundamental truth. CARE has been working since 2006 for change through advocacy within the UK Parliaments and Assemblies and in Europe.

We were actively involved in the development of new laws across the UK in 2015, supporting amendments to the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015. We also acted as the principal advisor to Lord Morrow, who took the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Criminal Justice and Support for Victims) Act (Northern Ireland) 2015 through the Assembly.

We are currently calling on the Government to take action in a number of areas including the following:

1. Tackle demand

Many people are trafficked into and within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Trafficking is fostered by the demand for prostitution and the ability of traffickers to make money by exploiting people in this way. In 2009, Section 14 of the Policing and Crime Act made it an offence to purchase sexual services from someone who is subject to force, but unfortunately the law has proven difficult to implement. In 2018, research from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution found that “the sexual exploitation of women by organised crime groups is widespread across the UK.” 

CARE is campaigning for the introduction of legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex in all circumstances. We believe that this is the only way to address effectively the demand for sexual services, which exploits the vulnerable and creates a market for human trafficking.

We welcome the change made to the law in Northern Ireland in 2015 making it illegal to pay for sex. You can find out more in our commercial sexual exploitation leaflet.

2. Provide child victims with greater support

Each year at least a quarter of the potential victims identified in the UK are children. Children are some of the most vulnerable of all victims. Many of them are alone in a foreign country, unfamiliar with the language and culture and experience and do not know who they can trust. Studies have shown that many child victims have gone missing from local authority care even after they have come to the attention of the authorities. Many of these children are thought to have run away back into the hands of their traffickers because of threats of violence to them or their families. CARE believes that we must improve the care that is provided for rescued trafficked children and protect them from going missing.

There are two main things that are needed:

1. Specialist foster care to provide trafficked children with security and stability and with a parent figure to support and check up on them. This is invaluable in aiding a child’s recovery.

2. A child trafficking guardian. Children who have been trafficked often have contact with a number of different state professionals (such as social works, immigration officials, police officers etc) which can be confusing and does not provide them with consistent support. This makes children vulnerable to the attempts of their traffickers to get them back. CARE has been calling on the Government to introduce a system which would provide every child victim a child trafficking guardian (sometimes called an “advocate”) to support them and speak up for their best interests accompanying them through all aspects of their care and treatment by government agencies during their time in the UK. We are delighted that legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland introduced in 2015 now guarantees provision of these specialist independent guardians, and that the Modern Slavery Act includes power to provide specialist advocates to children in England and Wales. We welcome the trials of those advocates schemes in parts of England and Wales but are calling on the Government to make this vital support available to trafficked children in all areas as soon as possible.

3. Improve victim care

There are two key improvements we would like to see to the support and assistance provided to victims:

1. Immediate support guaranteed in law. We believe it is important that victims can have confidence in the support they are entitled to. We welcomed the inclusion of a guarantee to provide support for victims in legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland in 2015 and we are calling on the Government to do the same in England and Wales. In 2017/19 we are supporting Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill which will amend the Modern Slavery Act in include a 12 months of guaranteed support for victims.

2. Assistance after leaving short term support. We also believe that more should be done to help victims at the end of the 45 period of assistance. Unless charities are able to finance an extended stay or longer term rehabilitation, many survivors are left to fend for themselves and are at risk of further exploitation. CARE recommends that victims should receive greater assistance and support in accessing safe accommodation, welfare benefits, healthcare, counselling and work at the end of the initial recovery period. We are currently supporting Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill that will offer all victims a rehabilitation period of 12 months.

' Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. '

Proverbs 31:8-9 (NLT)