Modern slavery and human trafficking are believed to be amongst the most widespread crimes in the world. The UN’s International Labour Organisation estimates that there are 40.3 million people trapped in modern slavery around the world. Modern day slavery is defined differently to slavery, which was about ownership, and instead focuses more on people who are being exploited and completely controlled by someone else. Anti-Slavery describes anyone who is forced to work through coercion or threat, owned or controlled by an employer, dehumanised or treated as a commodity, or who has restrictions placed on their freedom of movement as being a victim of modern slavery. Children whose movement or communications are already impaired, for example through a disability, can be at even higher risk of exploitation through slavery.
Women and girls who are being sexually exploited or have forced or early marriages and people who are working in sweatshops, on rubbish dumps or in street begging operations are all caught in slavery. Of the 40.3 million people trapped in slavery, a quarter are children and of the 4.8 million people who are being sexually exploited, 21% are children. Children in slavery are often surrounded by violence, abuse and threats. They work long hours doing hazardous, tiring work, usually far from their homes and family. Their movement and opportunities to talk to other people are often severely restricted by the people exploiting them.
Closely linked to modern day slavery is human trafficking. Trafficking means transporting, recruiting or harbouring people for the purpose of exploitation. In other words, trafficking is a process of enslaving people. Trafficking is often confused with people smuggling, which means illegally moving people across borders. People can be trafficked without being transported - they do not even need to leave their own town or city to be a victim. With children, no coercion needs to take place. Simply putting them into a situation where they are being exploited counts as trafficking. Trafficked children may end up being sexually exploited, but they also end up in forced labour which can include domestic work, begging operations and organised petty crime.
Women and men who are trafficked often fall victim because they are trying to escape poverty and build a better life for their families. They believe the stories of traffickers who tell them about the large salaries available in parts of their own country or around the world. Human trafficking increases significantly in the wake of a natural disaster, with parents desperately seeking ways to rebuild their lives and many children left vulnerable and without adult care. In Nepal, after the earthquake of 2015, The National Human Rights Commission of Nepal reported that human trafficking increased by 15%..
Many of our programmes address the threat and impact of modern slavery and human trafficking. Each project is led by a local partner and tailored to the exact needs of the community, but there are common aspects to our work across countries: