Modern slavery is the illegal exploitation of people for personal or commercial gain. Victims of modern slavery can be any gender, nationality and ethnicity and unfortunately, children are not immune to this dreadful scourge. The main forms of exploitation that affect children are labour exploitation; sexual exploitation; domestic servitude and criminal exploitation.
1. Labour exploitation
Victims work for offenders in businesses or sites that offenders directly control. In more organised examples, offenders act as gangmasters, controlling teams of victims on single or across multiple sites. Victims often live in a single overcrowded residence. In the Home Office’s case file, the majority of child victims experiencing this type of slavery in the UK were Vietnamese or Chinese. They tended to be recruited in person in their country of origin. They often worked in nail bars, fairground rides and the cleaning and catering sector.
2. Child sexual exploitation (CSE)
Vulnerable child victims are targeted for grooming either in person or online. Offenders sexually exploit the children for personal gratification and sometimes force them into sex work in fixed or changing locations. Victims may already be known to the authorities for other reasons. Almost all victims in the Home Office’s casefile were female and British, aged 13 or older (although the youngest victim was 3.) A large proportion of CSE victims have an unstable home life, mental or physical health issues or alcohol and drug use.
3. Domestic servitude
Victims live with offenders and are forced to undertake household chores. There is generally one victim per household. Some victims are even specifically trafficked for work in diplomatic households. In a third of the Home Office’s case files, the victims were children. The vast majority were from non‑ EEA countries such as Benin, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam. Victims usually lead very isolated lives with little or no unsupervised freedom. They may, however, attend school. Their own privacy and comfort will be minimal, often sleeping on a mattress on the floor, hidden in a cellar or locked room.
4. Child criminal exploitation (CCE)
Victims are forced to take part in gang-related criminality. This could be county lines drug trafficking, cannabis cultivation, shoplifting, pickpocketing or forced begging. Each of these different types of criminal activities may affect different types of children. For example, most children involved in cannabis cultivation are Vietnamese children who speak no or minimal English. Recruitment commonly occurs in person in the country of origin of the victims. In some cases, the victims’ families approach an agent in the hope of giving their child a better life. In contrast, most county lines’ victims are from the UK.
Often, one form of exploitation may make a child vulnerable to other types of abuse and exploitation. For example, a child trafficked for domestic servitude may end up being sexually abused by the adults in the household too.
(Definitions and insight taken from A Typology of Modern Slavery Offences in the UK, October 2017)