Human Trafficking

What is human trafficking?

smiling-womanHuman trafficking is a serious crime. It is trafficking if you have been brought to (or moved round) a country by others who threaten, frighten, hurt and force you to do work or other things you don’t want to do.

People are trafficked for sexual exploitation, domestic servitude or to provide forced labour in factories and farms. It is lucrative organised crime and gangs can be ruthless. Trafficking is modern day slavery and a violation of your human rights.

Signs that you should seek help:

  • Were you told you were coming to the UK to work in a job that did not exist and then forced to work in a different or illegal trade under harsh conditions?
  • Was violence or sexual abuse used?
  • Have you, your family or friends been threatened?
  • Has your passport been taken by the people who brought you to the UK or the people you are working for?
  • Have you been forced to pay back large debts to those people? Were you still not free to leave once those ‘debts’ had been paid?

Who can help?

The police can help you and offer you immediate protection. South Yorkshire Police ran the UK Human Trafficking Centre until 2010 and should have a good understanding of your situation. Or you can contact the voluntary sector organisations (below) confidentially or ring the domestic abuse helpline to find out more about your support options.

National Referral Mechanism

The NRM has been put in place to find, help and protect people who have been trafficked. If you are found to be a potential victim of trafficking you are granted 45 days to stay in the UK with support to recover from your experiences and the authorities will not contact you during this time. Support can include: accommodation, medical treatment, emotional support, providing a translator, help at court and getting free, independent legal advice. After 45 days a formal decision will be made as to whether you have been trafficked and you may be granted a one-year residence permit (depending on your case). If you are not granted leave to remain in the UK as part of this process, normal immigration procedures will apply.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation

It is mostly young women and girls who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. You may have come to the UK with someone you trusted as a partner or friend, or have been expecting to work in a bar or a shop. Even, if you came to the UK knowing you would do sex work, but discovered that the conditions you were forced to work under were different to those promised, this is also trafficking and you are entitled to support.

If you have been trafficked you may be very frightened about what the people who trafficked you could do to you, or your family, but the specialist organisations (below) and the police have worked with many similar cases and will take your fears and your safety very seriously.

Internal Trafficking

Internal trafficking is when people are trafficked within the UK. Women and girls are often groomed by older ‘boyfriends’ who use violence and abuse to control them, force them to have sex with other men and isolate them by removing them from areas where they have family or friends. Section 58 of the Sexual Offences Act states that trafficking within the UK is an offence punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

Trafficking Facts

In the 6 months from April to September 2009, 347 people were referred to the National Referral Mechanism as victims of trafficking. 78% of those referrals were people from outside the EU, 30% were under the age of 18 and 74% were female. Of those 347 people, 150 were trafficked for sexual exploitation: 118 women, 31 girls (under 18) and 1 boy (under 18). The remaining 197 were trafficked for domestic servitude, forced labour or the reason was not known. These figures show trafficking survivors, who have been referred to the NRM. Many more people are trafficked who don’t seek help from the authorities.

Organisations which can help

Poppy Project: 0207 735 2062
National organisation with some workers in Sheffield.


Stop-UK: 0844 800 3314
National organisation based in Sheffield with an office-hours helpline, can provide outreach support in Sheffield


Migrant Helpline: 07766 6688781


Northern Refugee Centre: 0114 272 9332
Based in Sheffield


UK Human Trafficking Centre: 0114 252 3891


Ashiana Sheffield: 0114 255 5740