Last updated: 11 September 2023

Next review: 11 September 2024


What is trafficking?

Trafficking 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, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power, or a position of vulnerability, or the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal or organs’.

Human trafficking is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights.

How do people become victims of trafficking?

The definition of human trafficking includes three elements;

  • first, that someone is recruited or moved
  • second, that the movement or recruitment happened because the victim was forced or tricked into believing they were going to be doing something else. Most victims have been offered something they want or need by a trafficker such as a good job or a loving relationship
  • the third element is that the person is exploited

Note: If the victim is a child, it is considered trafficking even if there is no threat or use of force.

What are the different types of exploitation?

Human trafficking includes:

  • Sexual exploitation
  • Benefit fraud
  • Forced labour
  • Organ trafficking
  • Street crime
  • Drug trade
  • Forced marriage
  • Domestic servitude

What is the difference between trafficking and smuggling?


  • Crime against the state
  • Relationship between smuggler and migrant ends after illegal border crossing and migrant has paid fees
  • Migrant’s consent to illegal border crossing is gained


  • Crime against the person
  • Exploitative relationship between victim and trafficker continues in order to maximise economic gains
  • Either no consent gained or initial consent deemed irrelevant due to force or coercion

The main differences between smuggling and trafficking are that migrants usually consent to being smuggled.

Traffickers generate money from the continued exploitation of their victims (smugglers only generate money from the movement and illegal entry, there is no further transaction).

Smuggling must involve illegally crossing a border. Trafficking does not have to involve crossing a border as it can also happen within a country (also known as internal trafficking).

Trafficking: support services

Waltham Forest Solace Women’s Aid: 07340 683382

Ashiana Network (South Asian, Turkish and Iranian women): 020 8539 0427

Haven the Survivors of Abuse Network (historic and current sexual abuse): 020 8520 0755

Kiran Project (women and children from BAMER communities): 020 8558 1986

Stay Safe East (Disabled people service): 020 8519 7241 text phone 07587 134 122

National/London services

The National Referral Mechanism

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive the appropriate protection and support.

Under the NRM if a professional believes that they have identified a victim of trafficking then they can refer that person to a Competent Authority (CA) to have their case assessed.  If the Competent Authority recognises that a woman is a victim of trafficking she is given rights that include accommodation and support.

Who can refer?

Referrals can be made to the NRM by ‘First responders’ who should refer possible victims of trafficking to the Competent Authority who are based in UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC).

The following agencies are first responders:

  • National Crime Agency
  • Police forces
  • UK Border Force
  • Home Office Immigration and Visas
  • Local Authorities
  • Health and Social Care Trusts
  • Salvation Army
  • Medaille Trust
  • Barnardos

The first responder will complete a referral form to pass the case to the CA. Referral to a CA is voluntary and can happen only if the potential victim gives their permission by signing the downloadable referral form.

Useful contacts

If you are in immediate risk call 999 or 111 (from a mobile) for the Police

Modern Slavery helpline
Telephone: 0800 0121 700

UK Human Trafficking Centre
Telephone: 0114 252 3891

Salvation Army
A 24 hour confidential helpline for people who may be victims of trafficking and for anyone concerned about people they think may be victims of trafficking.
Tel: 0300 303 8151 (24/7 referral line)