Latest News and Updates

Human Trafficking Victims – How to Spot the Signs

Last year  The Guardian reported that in 2022 the number of human trafficking referrals to the NRM (national referral mechanism) was the highest it had ever been, with 9 out of 10 cases confirmed to be victims.

Those statistics sadly prove that the abhorrent issue of human trafficking is still prevalent in the UK, and it is important that people in the health care profession are aware of how to spot the signs, in order to help potential victims access help, guidance and support in pursuing legal action against their traffickers.

What is modern slavery?
The government defines modern slavery as, “the illegal trade of human beings for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation or reproductive slavery, forced labour, or a modern-day form of slavery.”

There is a variety of reasons behind trafficking, some of which include:

  • Sexual exploitation
  • Domestic servitude
  • Forced labour within agriculture, food processing, hospitality, factories and construction
  • Criminal endeavours, such as cannabis cultivation, begging, fraudulent benefits claims and street crime
  • Organ harvesting

Who can be a victim of trafficking?

Anyone can be vulnerable to trafficking: men, women and children are trafficked every year, around the UK and internationally. The majority of victims are foreign nationals, with Albanians being the mostly commonly trafficked, but anyone can become a victim, including British nationals.

What are the signs?

Health care professionals are in a unique position to spot potential victims, and here are some
indicators you can look out for, according to guidance from the government.

  •  Being accompanied by someone who appears overbearing and dominates the exchange.
  • Seemingly afraid to speak and allowing their companion to speak on their behalf.
  • Vague and inconsistent background information, e.g., employment or their address.
  • Old or untreated injuries.
  • Not registered with a GP, school or nursery.
  • Experienced being moved locally, regionally, nationally or internationally.
  • Frequent relocation.
  • An appearance suggestive of neglect.
  • Communication issues.
  • No official ID or possibly forged documents.

Children and young people –

  • Suspicious or unclear relationship with their adult companion.
  • Frequently going missing from care, school and home.
  • Inconsistent information about their age.

Health care issues and indicators

Modern slavery victims may only seek health care when seriously injured or unwell. Possible health
issues may include the following:

  •  STIs
  • Pregnancy and late access to maternity care
  • Dental pain
  • Psychiatric and psychological distress
  • Evidence of multiple injuries sustained over a long period of time
  • Poor nutrition
  • Back pain, skin problems, stomach pain, headaches and dizzy spells

What to do if you suspect someone is a victim of trafficking

The government advises some of the following actions:

If you believe someone is in immediate danger – call 999. The Metropolitan Police with Stop the Traffik have a 24-hour hotline for victims, or to report suspected trafficking – 0800 783 2589.

  •  Support for adult victims of human trafficking is available in England and Wales via The Salvation Army. They have a 24-hour confidential helpline – 0300 303 8151, and offer professional advice, support and referrals. The contacts for Northern Ireland and Scotland are: Migrant Help on 07766 668781 and Scotland: TARA on 0141 276 7724.
  • For potential child victims of trafficking please call your Local Authority Children’s Services or the NPSCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre on 0808 800 5000.

For more information on how to spot and help potential human trafficking victims, please refer to

Scroll to Top