Learning to Spot the Signs of Human Trafficking

I walk up and down this street a few times a week, and I was astonished when there was a police raid and rescue here back in September 2018. I had already been learning about human trafficking as part of Restore Glasgow, but I wasn’t prepared for the issue to be so local and immediate. Recently Restore Glasgow hosted IJM (International Justice Mission) at The Charter for a Spot the Signs event to learn more about Human Trafficking. We heard about the global issues, the national picture and our local context. This wasn’t the easiest way to spend a Saturday morning but it was an important reminder of what is happening in our city, and that we can do something about it.

I have much to learn on this topic, but I wanted to share some of what we heard. In Scotland trafficking can take various forms: sexual exploitation, labour, domestic servitude an forced criminal activities. We learned about spotting the signs of Human Trafficking (these need to be assessed in context and in relation to each other, one isolated sign does not necessarily mean trafficking). We can all pay attention for these things in our everyday lives.

– Is an item or service too cheap? Does it appear a fair wage is unlikely, or that working conditions are not appropriate.

– Physical Appearance: does a person or people appear malnourished, unkempt, anxious, agitated, or with untreated injuries. These signs could be the result of physical or psychological abuse.

– Isolation: are individuals rarely allowed to travel alone, unfamiliar with their neighbourhood, appear to be under the control of or always spoken for by someone else.

– Poor living conditions: dirty, cramped or overcrowded accomodation, or living and working at the same address.

– Relationships which don’t seem quite ‘right’ ie. a significant age imbalance (taken in consideration with other factors).

– Restricted freedom of movement: no ID documents, few clothes or personal belongings or clothes unsuitable for work.

– Unusual travel arrangements: being regularly dropped off or picked up in unusual locations or at unusual times.

– Individuals reluctant to seek help: avoiding eye contact, afraid of the strangers or police.

Adapted from The Modern Slavery Helpline Spot the Signs resource, which goes into further detail.

As members of the public we can take action if we notice something that doesn’t seem quite right:

– In an emergency contact the Police on 999, or with a non-emergency police matter call 101.

– Contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 to get help, report a suspicion or seek advice.

– Use the Safe Car Wash App to complete a short survey when you are using a hand car wash, this will flag up potential exploitation.


If you wish to learn more about this topic, the following websites are useful resources:

IJM UK have stories of rescue across the world and ideas for how we can combat slavery in our day to day choices.

The Modern Slavery Helpline website has resources and a directory of UK based service providers.

The 2018 Global Slavery Index provides a country by country ranking of the number of people in modern slavery, as well as an analysis of the actions governments are taking to respond, and the factors that make people vulnerable.

The Santa Marta Group is an alliance of international police chiefs and bishops from around the world working together with civil society to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery.

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