Today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Saturday 2nd December marks the date of the adoption, by the General Assembly, of the United Nations Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (resolution 317(IV) of 2nd December 1949).

The focus of this day is on eradicating contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, the worst forms of child labour, forced marriage, and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

Main forms of Modern Slavery

Slavery has evolved throughout history. Today some traditional forms of slavery still persist, while others have been transformed into new ones.

The UN human rights bodies have documented the persistence of old forms of slavery that are embedded in traditional beliefs and customs. These are the result of long-standing discrimination against the most vulnerable groups in societies.

Forced labour

Alongside traditional forms of forced labour there now exist more contemporary forms of forced labour. These include migrant workers who have been trafficked for exploitation of every kind: work in domestic servitude, the construction industry, the food and garment industry, the agricultural sector and in forced prostitution.

Child labour

According to data provided by UNICEF, globally, one child out of every six works. The majority of the child labour that occurs today is for economic exploitation. That goes against the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognizes:

“the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation and from performing any work that is likely to be hazardous or to interfere with the child’s education, or to be harmful to the child’s health or physical, mental, spiritual, moral or social development.”


According to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, trafficking in persons is defined as:

“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion for the purpose of exploitation.”

The consent of the person trafficked for exploitation is irrelevant. If the trafficked person is a child, it is a crime even without the use of force.

What you can do to help eradicate modern slavery

If you are concerned about a potential victim, or suspicious about a situation that is potentially exploitative, you can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 or submit a report online.

The helpline is operated by Unseen, open 24/7 and entirely confidential. Our specially trained advisors can take details of your concerns and pass them on to the most appropriate agency to ensure victims are safeguarded and supported as quickly as possible.

If you believe a person is being trafficked and is in immediate danger, you should call 999 straight away.

You can also report suspicions of trafficking by calling 101 or visiting your local police station.

You can also contact Unseen’s RIO Team for advice about a potential victim and the services available in the South West.

Listed below are some of the signs that might indicate trafficking. This is not an exhaustive list. If you have any concerns about an individual or a situation please call the police.

Physical appearance

  • Showing signs of physical or psychological abuse, looking malnourished or unkempt, or appearing withdrawn and neglected. They may have untreated injuries.


  • Rarely being allowed to travel on their own, seeming under the control or influence of others, rarely interacting or appearing unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.

Poor Living Conditions

  • Living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and / or living and working at the same address.

Restricted freedom of movement

  • Having no identification documents, having few personal possessions and always wearing the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work.
  • Having little opportunity to move freely, and potentially having their travel documents retained, such as their passport.

Unusual travel times

  • Being dropped off / collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.

Reluctant to seek help

  • Avoiding eye contact, appearing frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fearing law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.