Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 - Country Narratives - United Kingdom


The Government of the United Kingdom (UK) fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, the UK remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by launching a wide variety of national awareness campaigns, identifying more potential victims and prosecuting more traffickers than in the previous reporting period, and strengthening enforcement of labor standards in sectors with high vulnerability to trafficking. The government continued to implement provisions of The Modern Slavery Act enacted in 2015 that strengthened existing laws to pursue perpetrators, increased protections for victims, and established the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. Although the government meets the minimum standards, the victim identification and referral system, did not consistently assist all those requiring help, and the quality of care varied between jurisdictions in the UK. The government did not always ensure victim care following a 45-day reflection period, after which authorities in many cases deported foreign victims who were not assisting in an investigation and prosecution.


Increase funding for, and access to, specialized services for trafficking victims across all UK jurisdictions, regardless of their immigration status; provide a trafficking-specific long-term alternative to deportation or repatriation for foreign victims; consider extending the reflection and recovery period beyond 45 days for all service providers; increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and sentence traffickers with strong sentences; establish a database on sentencing of convicted traffickers across the UK, categorized by type of trafficking conviction; expand the independent child trafficking advocate program nationally; make training on trafficking mandatory for all social workers and care providers working with trafficking victims, especially those working with children; increase training for law enforcement, public defenders, prosecutors, judges, and front-line responders, including in UK overseas territories, to improve responses to trafficking victims and ensure victims are not prosecuted for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; and develop a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework for effective implementation of the Modern Slavery Act and related anti-trafficking laws and regulations across UK jurisdictions.


The government maintained prosecution efforts. The Modern Slavery Act of 2015, applicable to England and Wales, prohibits trafficking and prescribes penalties up to and including life imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Northern Ireland and Scotland enacted similar legislation in 2015, also with sufficiently stringent and commensurate penalties. For a conviction in a trial following an indictment, the sentence is life imprisonment. Provisions in the Modern Slavery Act that became effective in August 2016, provide law enforcement authority to pursue criminals, including human traffickers at sea, and including authority to board, divert, and detain vessels; make arrests; and seize evidence while investigating potential offenses at sea. Laws across the UK now allow for the seizure of convicted traffickers’ assets for payment to victims.

The government did not report the total number of trafficking investigations initiated in 2016. The government reported the Crown Prosecution Service, which handled cases in England and Wales, prosecuted 343 suspected traffickers and convicted 216 traffickers between 2015 and 2016, an increase from the previous year’s prosecution of 295 individuals and conviction of 192 individuals. Authorities in Northern Ireland reported investigating eight trafficking cases and three convictions in 2016, with sentences ranging from one year to two and a half years imprisonment; one trafficking case was pending trial. In Scotland, there were nine prosecutions and three convictions in 2015. The UK government did not report the proportion of convictions that were for sex trafficking versus labor trafficking and did not report statistics on sentences imposed on convicted traffickers. NGOs expressed concern that prosecutions lag and court-imposed sentences and fines have been minimal and insufficient to deter potential perpetrators.

In November, a court convicted five Czech nationals of labor trafficking; sentences in the case ranged from two years to six and a half years in prison. In August, a Nigerian woman was convicted and received a 22-year prison sentence for sex trafficking Nigerian victims in France, after transiting through Heathrow Airport, following her arrest under Operation Hudson, targeting organized trafficking groups, and led by UK Immigration Enforcement. In January, a court convicted two Polish citizens and sentenced each to six years in prison for forcing migrant workers to work in a sporting equipment factory and withholding wages.

The government provided varying levels of anti-trafficking training to law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and justice officials. All new police recruits and detectives were mandated to complete training modules on human trafficking. An NGO published a set of trafficking survivor care standards that the government disseminated widely and included in law enforcement training materials. The Independent Anti-Slavery Commission implemented guidelines for training for all 43 police forces in England and Wales, including a training manual for use by each unit in conducting their own trainings. In Northern Ireland, the police service trained 1,788 front-line officers by the end of 2016 and focused external training on call-handlers who often have first contact with potential trafficking victims. The Northern Ireland police service continued providing around-the-clock support to front-line officers and other agencies through their dedicated anti-trafficking unit. The UK government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking offenses.


The government increased protection efforts. Through the national referral mechanism (NRM), authorities identified 3,805 potential trafficking victims in 2016, compared with 3,266 potential victims in 2015. This 17 percent increase followed a 40 percent increase in 2015; these were concurrent with expanded public awareness efforts and implementation of the Modern Slavery Act. Of these potential victims, 51 percent were female, 49 percent were male, and five potential victims were transgender, while 67 percent were adults and 33 percent were children. Victims came from 108 countries, with 66 percent from the UK. Among adult victims, 13 percent were referred for domestic servitude, 44 percent for other forms of labor trafficking, 38 percent for sex trafficking, and five percent for unknown exploitation. Overall, the percentage of minors referred as potential victims increased by 30 percent from 2015. Authorities referred eight percent of the minors for domestic servitude, 37 percent for other forms of labor trafficking, 28 percent for sex trafficking, and 27 percent for unknown exploitation. The Modern Slavery Act includes a “duty to notify” requiring specific government agencies report all potential adult victims encountered to authorities under the guidelines of the NRM. In July 2016, by executive decrees, the government required that when police refer a potential victim to the NRM, they must also record the encounter as a potential crime of human trafficking under the Modern Slavery Act. Despite increases in identification of victims resulting from this effort, the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner reported in August that data from 43 regional police forces across the UK revealed failings in the comprehensive recording of modern slavery crimes in England and Wales.

The UK operates the NRM as a process for identifying and providing care and support for trafficking victims. The initial referral to the system is generally made by a first responder, such as the police, the border patrol, or local authorities. Following the initial referral, the NRM has two steps for identification: a preliminary finding of “reasonable grounds” that an individual is likely a trafficking victim and a final decision of “conclusive grounds” that triggers victim protection measures. There is no formal appeal process for preliminary or final decisions, but a reconsideration of the decision can be requested. The UK Visas and Immigration in the Home Office and the UK Human Trafficking Centre makes these determinations. Once a reasonable grounds decision is made, the victim enters a 45-day period and program of reflection and recovery with access to services such as accommodation, health care, and counseling. During this period the victim decides whether to assist in the investigation and potential prosecution of the perpetrator. The Modern Slavery Act requires that victims receive a determination on their status as a victim under the NRM within 45 days, although in many cases the government did not meet this deadline, leaving some potential victims in limbo.

The UK government-funded a £9 million ($11.08 million) contract with an NGO to coordinate the provision of care for adult victims in England and Wales under the NRM during the 45-day recovery and reflection period for the 2015-2016 fiscal year. In Wales, the Anti-Slavery Leadership Group tailored an individual plan that can extend beyond the 45-day reflection period. In Northern Ireland, authorities contracted NGOs to work in tandem with government agencies to provide care for victims; however, there was a lack of government funding for victims who do not enter the NRM or who require support following conclusive decisions on their trafficking cases and remain in Northern Ireland. Victims of trafficking in Scotland also had the right to access support and assistance, and the Scottish government provided £700,000 ($862,070) to two victim support organizations reflecting the priority for victim care in the government strategy launched in October 2016. For victims who choose to return voluntarily to their country of origin, the UK government provides up to £2,000 ($2,460) toward their reintegration there.

Foreign victims who assist with investigations may be granted temporary residency for up to one year. However, authorities otherwise typically deported foreign victims. Long-term legal alternatives to removal to countries where victims might face hardship or retribution were only available through asylum procedures. NGOs in Northern Ireland criticized this practice and noted legal representatives of potential victims often discourage them from entering the referral system because applying for asylum is a more promising route to remain in Northern Ireland longer. NGO representatives reported potential victims in Northern Ireland were typically deported one year from a positive decision under the NRM and were not allowed to apply for asylum, whereas asylum-seekers typically spend many years in Northern Ireland and often become permanent residents.

Government funding of NGOs tripled over the past four years to £9 million ($11.08 million) but some NGOs say care is insufficient for the growing number of identified victims once the 45-day reflection period ends, and that no record is kept once the victims leaves the system. The government is currently reviewing the NRM system, including a determination whether to extend the 45-day reflection period. NGOs reported cases of victims returning to prostitution or being re-trafficked due to lack of long-term support. The Wales Anti-Slavery Leadership Group established a “Survivor Care Pathway” with a long-term individual plan for survivors. North Wales implemented a multi-faceted victim reception model designed to be operational in support of a victim within two hours after identification.

Local children’s services offices were charged with providing support for children, but NGOs raised concern that with no mandatory training for social workers, children did not receive adequate care. The Modern Slavery Act provides for the appointment of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTA), to represent and support children victims within the legal system. However, the government did not expand the program nationwide pending a second pilot program to assess effectiveness of the model, and NGOs expressed disappointment in this decision. The government announced in June 2016 a plan to provide training for all ICTAs, and provided £3 million ($3.69 million) over the next three years, to address the issue of missing children at risk of re-victimization. Scotland’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act also provides for an independent child trafficking guardian. Northern Ireland’s Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act 2015 provides for an independent legal guardian for children subjected to trafficking and unaccompanied children who arrive without a parent or primary caregiver.

Under the Modern Slavery Act, victims have a statutory defense for crimes committed as a consequence of their trafficking. Similar provisions exist under Northern Ireland and Scotland law, although NGOs in Northern Ireland raised concerns some individuals who were prosecuted may have been trafficking victims. UK and Northern Ireland law protects victims during court hearings by allowing them to testify by video, behind a screen, or with the public removed from the court. Courts may confiscate assets of convicted human traffickers and compensate victims through reparation orders, and now can include assets accrued over the past six years.

The government implemented provisions of the Modern Slavery Act allowing foreign domestic workers who are trafficking victims to change employers during the six-month period for which they are admitted. Effective April 2016, any domestic worker determined to be a victim is allowed to remain in the UK for an additional two years. All domestic workers entering on an employment visa into the UK for more than 42 days must attend a session to inform them of their rights and available protections. Some observers still argued this system of “tied” visa status to actual employment continued to leave workers vulnerable, as it discouraged victims from reporting abuses.


The government increased prevention efforts. The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner published an annual report in October 2016, highlighting achievements one year into the 2015-2017 strategic plan. Results included increased awareness raising, efforts to improve the recording of potential trafficking victims, and increased protection of vulnerable children. Under the Slavery and Trafficking Risk Orders provision in the Modern Slavery Act, there were 19 individuals determined under court order as posing a high risk of committing a human trafficking offense, and restricted from such activities as working with children, employing staff, or traveling to specific countries. Similar orders were available in Scotland and Ireland through their anti-trafficking laws. A national helpline launched in early 2016, received 468 calls between October and December, with 47 percent being potential trafficking cases. The Immigration Act 2016 significantly expanded the scope of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to enforce labor standards in high-risk sectors by allowing the agency to investigate regulatory and criminal offenses in employment, and created a new position of Director of Labour Market Enforcement, responsible for setting priorities for labor market enforcement to fight worker exploitation. In July the Prime Minister announced she would chair a new taskforce, which began meeting regularly, and set up to improve the operational response to slavery, to develop an international strategy, and to increase coordination among government agencies, and between the government and service organizations. In November the government announced a new £8.5 million ($10.47 million) Police Transformation Fund, which includes a Joint Slavery and Trafficking Analysis Centre within the National Crime Agency, focused on research and developing best practices in trafficking-related issues such as cybercrime, child protection, immigration crime, financial crime, effective training, and awareness building.

Under The Modern Slavery Act, all businesses with annual revenue exceeding £36 million ($44.34 million) must publish an annual statement detailing efforts to ensure its operations and supply chains are free of human trafficking. This approach seeks to create a “race to the top” among companies through transparent reporting and inter-industry collaboration. The anti-slavery commissioner noted the UK is a leader in developing this approach, and many companies are tackling the issue directly, developing toolkits, running training programs, and introducing agreements with suppliers. However, consistent use of best practices was sporadic and critics noted the lack of monetary or criminal penalties for non-compliance.

Authorities may prosecute citizens for sexual offenses committed against children overseas, but the government did not report any actions against UK nationals engaged in child sex tourism. All registered sex offenders must notify the government of foreign travel, enabling the police to share information with other jurisdictions or apply for a sexual harm prevention order, preventing such travel. The government did not report anti-trafficking training provided to its diplomatic personnel or members of the military prior to deployment abroad as part of international peacekeeping missions in 2016.

National awareness campaigns included a broad range of activities, including press communications by the Home Office regarding transparency in supply chains, as well as promoting activities and events on Anti-Slavery Day, October 18. Officials in Scotland used the day for an interagency operation to visit business premises, including food productions companies, agricultural firms, car washes, and beauty shops, and identified 11 potential trafficking victims in the process. Wales includes an anti-trafficking module in school curriculum, as well as poster campaigns in public buildings.


As reported over the past five years, the United Kingdom is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including domestic servitude. The government estimates there may be up to 13,000 persons subject to trafficking, with one-fourth to one-third children. Most identified victims are subject to labor trafficking. Most foreign trafficking victims come from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Albania, Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania, and Poland were the top countries of origin during the past year. UK children continue to be subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Children in the care system and unaccompanied migrant children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. Migrant workers in the UK are subjected to forced labor in agriculture, cannabis cultivation, construction, food processing, factories, domestic service, nail salons, food services, car washes, and on fishing boats. In Northern Ireland, migrants from Albania and Romania are particularly vulnerable to forced labor, including in agricultural work.



Bermuda is a limited destination territory for women and men subjected to forced labor. Some foreign migrant workers from Asia and Latin America are vulnerable to domestic servitude and abuse or to forced labor in the construction and agricultural industries in Bermuda. The Department of Immigration received several reports of suspected forced labor cases, but after investigation determined them not to be trafficking cases. The government did not report any other investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of trafficking offenses in 2016. Some employers reportedly confiscate passports, withhold wages, deny benefits, and threaten migrant workers with repaying the cost of airline tickets. Migrant workers in Bermuda operate under a strict system of government work permits obtained by employers on behalf of foreign workers. The Transnational Organized Crime Act 2013 criminalizes all forms of sex and labor trafficking and prescribes penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment. Government resources were inadequate to conduct inspections to identify possible exploitation of foreign workers. No government officials were prosecuted or convicted for involvement in trafficking or trafficking-related criminal activities in 2016.


Turks and Caicos Islands are a destination for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. According to local experts, the large population of migrants from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica are vulnerable to sex trafficking and forced labor, with stateless children and adolescents especially at risk. Local stakeholders, including law enforcement officials, have reported specific knowledge of sex trafficking occurring in bars and brothels and noted trafficking-related complicity by some local government officials was a problem. The government did not report any updates on anti-trafficking legislation, introduced in 2012, which was still pending at the end of the previous reporting period. Penalties under the proposed legislation include up to ten years imprisonment. The government did not report protection or prevention efforts undertaken during the reporting period. Four government officials participated in a regional anti-trafficking training session in June. The absence of specific legislation criminalizing trafficking as defined by the 2000 UN TIP Protocol; the absence of victim identification, screening, and protection procedures; and limited awareness of human trafficking on the part of officials and the public continued to hinder anti-trafficking efforts.