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Report human trafficking

This advice applies to England

Human trafficking is the trade of people for exploitation and commercial gain.

If you think someone has been trafficked, you can help make them safe.

If you suspect human trafficking, call the police. Call 999 if it’s an emergency, or 101 if it’s not urgent.

If you’d prefer to stay anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

If you don’t want to call the police, you can talk to a charity anonymously.

Identify human trafficking

Human trafficking doesn’t just happen in the sex industry. People are exploited in construction, farming and even working in other people’s homes.

Usually people who've been trafficked are:

  • lied to about what a job involves
  • brought from another country (but people can also be trafficked within the UK) 
  • forced to work 
  • monitored very closely by whoever they work for

Because people are trafficked to work for very little pay or none at all, it’s sometimes called modern-day slavery or labour exploitation.

Signs of human trafficking

All trafficking cases are different, but there are common signs. A victim of trafficking might:

  • have a lack of freedom
  • work for very little or no pay
  • seem to be in debt to someone
  • live in fear of someone or even the authorities
  • have signs of physical abuse, like cuts and bruises
  • move location regularly

Children can be trafficked too. They will share many common signs with adult victims but might stand out from other children because:

  • they have money or possessions they can’t account for
  • they don’t seem to live with parents or guardians 
  • they’re emotionally unstable, for example, aggressive, withdrawn or anxious

You can find out more about spotting the potential signs of human trafficking on the Modern Slavery Helpline’s website.

Get advice

If you want confidential advice about trafficking before calling the police, there are a number of specialist organisations you can talk to. You can contact:

  • The Salvation Army’s 24 hour confidential helpline for reporting modern slavery on 0300 3038 151 
  • The Modern Day Slavery Foundation’s helpline on 0800 0121 700, open 24 hours a day
  • the NSPCC’s helpline on 0808 8005 000 if you think a child is in danger of trafficking

If you want to talk to someone face-to-face, your local Citizens Advice can help you decide what to do next.

How to report trafficking

You must get your client’s consent before reporting trafficking. You must explain to them:

  • what the National Referral Mechanism is

  • what support they can get through it

  • what the outcomes could be for them

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) has been set up to protect victims of trafficking. You can’t report trafficking directly. Only certain organisations can report trafficking to them. These are called ‘first responders’. Check the list of first responder organisations on GOV.UK to find who you can report it to. 

Part of the Home Office called the Single Competent Authority (SCA) will consider reports of trafficking.  

If the SCA believes your client has been trafficked, your client will get safe accommodation and support for at least 45 days. This period is to help them recover and think about what they want to do next. They don’t have to agree to report the traffickers to the police to get this help. 

The support can include:

  • medical help

  • access to legal advice

  • emotional and practical help

  • protection

Before the end of the 45-day period, the SCA will make a final decision about whether your client is a victim of trafficking. If they decide they are, your client might either:

  • get an extended period to recover

  • be granted discretionary leave to remain for a year

If the SCA decides your client isn’t a victim of trafficking, they can ask for a review or go to court to challenge the decision by judicial review. If they also applied for asylum and it’s refused, they can appeal to an independent tribunal. If your client wants to take any of these steps, you should refer them to an immigration specialist.  

Your client might be also able to stay in the UK under European law or apply for asylum or human rights protection. You should refer them to an immigration specialist for advice on their options. 

If your client is a victim of trafficking, they might be entitled to compensation under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. Read more about claiming compensation for a victim of crime on GOV.UK.

What happens after you report trafficking

The first thing the police will do is protect someone who has been trafficked from anyone that might harm them.

The police and specialist organisations will work together to provide the victim with practical and emotional support. They’ll get medical care and help arranging accommodation in safe place, away from their traffickers.

If it’s safe, they’ll be helped to return to their home country. If it’s not safe to return, perhaps because they might be trafficked again, they'll get help to stay in the UK permanently. They might be able to get free legal help (called legal aid) for this.

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