Signs of Human Trafficking

Human trafficking happens all around us, but it's often hidden. Knowing how to spot the signs can save lives. The indicators below should be considered together, and even if you spot one or two or even three of the indicators, it does not necessarily mean someone is trafficked. However, if you have any suspicions about human trafficking you should report it.


Trafficked victims are often lured into another country by false promises and may not easily trust others. Trafficked victims may:

- Be fearful of police or authorities
- Be fearful of the trafficker, believing their lives or family members’ lives are at risk if they escape
- Exhibit signs of physical and psychological trauma e.g. anxiety, lack of memory of recent events, bruising, untreated conditions
- Be fearful of telling others about their situation
- Be unaware they have been trafficked and believe they are simply in a bad job
- Have limited freedom of movement
- Be unpaid, or paid very little
- Have limited access to medical care
- Seem to be in debt to someone
- Have no passport or mention that someone else is holding their passport
- Be regularly moved to avoid detection
- Believe they are being controlled by use of witchcraft


Residential housing/hotels are being used more and more as a form of a brothel. People forced into sexual exploitation may:

- Be moved between brothels, sometimes from city to city
- Sleep on work premises
- Display a limited amount of clothing, of which a large proportion is sexual
- Display substance misuse
- Be forced, intimidated, or coerced into providing sexual services
- Be subjected to abduction, assault, or rape
- Be unable to travel freely e.g. picked up and dropped off at work location by another person
- Have money for their services provided or collected by another person


Where work is done under the fear of a penalty, or the person has not offered himself/herself voluntarily and is now unable to leave. They may experience:

- Threat or actual physical harm
- Restricted movement or confinement
- Debt bondage, i.e., working to pay off a debt or loan; often the victim is paid very little or nothing for their services because of deductions
- Withholding of pay or excessive reductions
- Withholding of documents e.g. passport
- Threat of revealing to authorities an irregular immigration status
- Their employer is unable to produce required documents when asked
- Poor or non-existent health and safety standards
- Requirement to pay for tools
- Imposed accommodation (and deductions made for it)
- Pay that is less than minimum wage
- Dependence on employer for services
- No access to employment contract
- Excessive work hours and/or few breaks


When a person in a position of power or trust, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm, or risk of harm to a child. You may notice a child that is:

- Often missing or truant from class
- Secretive
- Has unexplained money/presents
- Experimenting with drugs/alcohol
- Associating with/being groomed by older people (not in normal networks)
- In relationships with significantly older people
- Taking part in social activities with no plausible explanation
- Seen entering or leaving vehicles with unknown adults
- Showing evidence of physical/sexual assault (including STD’s)
- Showing signs of low self image/self harm/eating disorder


The person is recruited and forced/deceived into conducting some form of criminal activity such as pickpocketing, begging, cannabis cultivation, and benefit fraud. Same indicators as forced labor, but for cannabis cultivation you may also notice:

- Windows of property are permanently covered from the inside
- Visits to property are at unusual times
- Property may be residential
- Unusual noises coming from the property, i.e., machinery
- Pungent smells coming from the property


A denial of freedom; this includes the obligation to provide certain services and the obligation to live on another person's property without the possibility of changing those circumstances. They may:

- Be living and working for a family in a private home
- Not be eating with the rest of the family
- Have no bedroom or proper sleeping place
- Have no private space
- Be forced to work excessive hours; on call 24 hours a day
- Never leave the house without the “employer”
- Be malnourished
- Be reported as missing or accused of crime by their “employer” if they try to escape

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