What to do if you've been trafficked

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

If you’ve been forced to work for little or no pay in a job you can’t leave, you might be a victim of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is also known as modern slavery or exploitation.

You can be trafficked to do lots of things, eg to work in people’s homes, in manual jobs such as construction and farming, or into prostitution.

If you think you’re a victim of human trafficking

Call the police by dialling 999.

You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s important to know that:

  • the police will help you

  • you’ll be protected from anyone you think might hurt you

  • you don’t have to give evidence in court unless you choose to

How to tell if you’ve been trafficked

While every case of trafficking is different, there are signs you can look out for if something doesn’t feel right about your situation.

Promise of a better life

You can be trafficked by someone you’ve met in person or online.

They might have:

  • brought you to work from another country, though you can be trafficked within the UK

  • promised you a good job or a relationship

Being forced to work

You might have been trafficked if you’ve been:

  • forced to work very long hours

  • paid very little, or nothing at all

  • forced to have sex with people

Having your freedom taken away

Your traffickers might have stopped you leaving by:

  • taking away your passport

  • claiming you owe them money, perhaps for travel or accommodation 

  • accompanying you wherever you go

  • threatening to hurt you

You can be trafficked by people you trust

Joy came to the UK when she was twelve to help her aunt and go to school. Instead of going to school, she had to work long hours in the house. At 15, Joy was sent to work for her aunt’s friend, who would slap her when she did something wrong. The friend's husband would sometimes abuse her. Joy couldn’t find her passport, but eventually left the house and found support through a charity.

Source: Rights of Women, May 2014

After you call the police

The police will take you somewhere safe, away from your trafficker.

If you’re a victim of trafficking you’ll have at least 4 weeks to recover without needing to arrange a visa to stay in the UK. During this time you’ll get help finding somewhere to live. You’ll also get emotional support such as counselling if you need it. You won’t have to pay for any of this help.

The police will investigate the people who trafficked you. You’ll get support and protection if you want to give evidence against them in court.

You’ll get help to return home if it’s safe for you to go back. If returning would put you at risk of being trafficked again, you’ll get help applying to stay in the UK permanently. You might be able to get free legal help (called legal aid) for this.

If you have to go to court or need more time to recover, you’ll get help to apply for temporary permission to stay in the UK. You can get benefits and help with housing if you get permission to stay.

Check what other help you can get on GOV.UK.

If you don’t want to talk to the police

It’s ok if you don’t want to speak to the police - you can contact a charity who help victims of trafficking.

Call The Salvation Army’s confidential helpline for victims of human trafficking on 0800 808 3733. The helpline is open 24 hours a day.

You’ll get help leaving your situation when you’re ready, and building a life afterwards.

If you want to talk to someone in person, go to your local Citizens Advice. They’ll give you advice on what to do next, and put you in touch with expert support in your area.

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Page last reviewed on 22 February 2020