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Modern slavery involves recruitment, harbouring and transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forcing them to work against their will.

It can be hidden in plain sight and is happening here in County Durham and Darlington.

Modern slavery takes many different forms but the most common forms are forced labour and criminal exploitation, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. Victims are made to work in places such as brothels, car washes, factories, nail bars, cannabis farms, in agriculture and in people’s houses.

Members of the public have a role to play in putting a stop to such horrific crimes. If you spot the signs you can report it directly to the police or to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

There are five different types of exploitation:

Sexual exploitation
Sexual exploitation is any abuse of vulnerability for sexual purposes. Grooming is often used to gain a vulnerable person’s trust. Exploiters become their “best friend”, “best lover”, “best manager”, “best drug dealer”.  The victim believes the love is genuine.

A person can be physically and/or psychologically forced into sexual activity, but they can also be sex workers who are exploited and forced to pay high sums to landlords and “managers”.

Forced labour
Forced labour refers to situations in which a person is coerced to work through the use of violence and / or psychological intimidation, such as accumulated debt, retention of ID, or threats of denunciation to the immigration authorities.

Forced labour occurs throughout the UK, often in low-skilled, low-wage jobs where labour standards and workers are unregulated, unlicensed or unenforced.

Typical sectors: agriculture, food processing and packaging, construction, tarmacking and paving, hotel, cleaning services, manufacturing (sweatshops).

Forced criminality
Forced criminality is where a person is forced into criminal activity for another’s gain.

Common forms of forced criminality in the UK are cannabis cultivation, drug dealing, benefit fraud, theft, begging and the selling of counterfeit goods. People forced into criminality are often afraid to go to the authorities for fear they will end up in prison.

Domestic servitude
Domestic servitude is a form of modern slavery where domestic workers – often maids, house-keepers, cleaners, nannies, or those caring for the elderly, ill and infirm, are forced to work for little or no pay, with restricted freedom and often with an element of sexual abuse.

Migrant domestic workers with tied visas are particularly vulnerable because their right to stay in the UK can be withdrawn by their employer. If they run away, they are likely to be deported.

Because domestic servitude occurs in private houses, it is one of the most invisible forms of modern slavery.

Human trafficking
Involves recruitment, harbouring or transporting people into a situation of exploitation through the use of violence, deception or coercion and forced to work against their will.

In other words, trafficking is a process of enslaving people, coercing them into a situation with no way out and exploiting them.

People can be trafficked for many different forms of exploitation such as forced prostitution, forced labour, forced criminality, domestic servitude, forced marriage, forced organ removal and county lines.

County lines is about modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation, alongside drug supply and violent crime. Organised Crime Groups and gangs run these networks, they are removed from the frontline activity of dealing drugs, instead recruiting children and vulnerable adults who are at high risk to transport and sell drugs on their behalf, often many miles from home.

Other forms of exploitation include organ removal, forced marriage and illegal adoption.

We ask you to look closer. Could the signs be right in front of you? Is it happening where you live?

Spotting the signs

  • Living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation.
  • Being dropped off and collected for work on a regular basis.
  • Showing signs of physical or psychological abuse
  • Look malnourished, unkempt or appear withdrawn
  • Possible dependency on drugs or alcohol
  • Fearful of others
  • Possibly have poor English – unable to communicate
  • Have very few personal possessions, often wear the same clothes and are poorly equipped for the job they are carrying out

Who do you contact if you have concerns?

  • The police on 101 or in an emergency 999 
  • Crimestoppers 0800 555 111
  • Modern Slavery Helpline 08000 121 700
  • The Salvation Army 0300 303 8151


Please consider adding the following apps to your mobile phone

Unseen App
Unseen App created by Modern Slavery Helpline.
A really useful app showing indicators of Modern Slavery and also access to contact details if you need to get in touch.


Safe carwash
 The Safecarwash App created by The Clewer Initiative.

This is used to gather information about car washes around the UK and to find out which car washes are not treating their staff fairly.


farmworkers welfare app

The Farm workers Welfare App created by The Clewer Inivitiative
Used to report possible exploitation in the Agricultural/Rural sector.


How can we help victims

As soon as a victim contacts us, their safety will be our top priority. We will work with them and a number of trusted support agencies to give them protection, shelter and support.  

We will investigate those involved and keep them informed about what is happening. 

Leaflets have been developed in a number of languages that give advice to foreign workers in the UK, please see the links below:

Trafficking Leaflet - English

Trafficking Leaflet - Czech

Trafficking Leaflet - Polish

Trafficking Leaflet - Romanian

Trafficking Leaflet - Slovak

Trafficking Leaflet - Spanish

Trafficking Leaflet - Vietnamese