“Why can’t victims of trafficking just walk away?”

It seems an obvious question: “Why can’t victims of human trafficking just walk away?” Unfortunately, the reality of this crime makes it incredibly difficult for its victims to escape.

Human trafficking is happening all around us with traffickers using a variety of psychologically and physically coercive techniques to trap their victims in plain sight.

Dependency on their trafficker

One of the first things that most human traffickers do is to take the passports or official documentation from their victims. They often limit or block all communication with friends and loved ones and keep any earnings for themselves. This renders victims of trafficking completely dependent on their abusers with their chances of escape significantly diminished from the outset.

Unfamiliar places

Many victims are trafficked away from their countries of origin, and into countries and cultures that are unfamiliar to them. Traffickers also capitalise on their victims’ unfamiliarity with the new country by instilling the fear of the unknown into their victims. They convince those they have trafficked that the country they in is incredibly dangerous and they will not survive for long on their own. They tell them that the local authorities don’t care about them and besides, who would they talk to if they don’t speak the language? Victims fear they will be arrested for being in the country illegally and deported or imprisoned.

Some victims of enforced sex work are told that all prostitution is illegal in the UK. This stops them seeking help from the authorities and escaping from a life of exploitation.The reality for many victims of trafficking is that the fear of being alone in an unfamiliar place and at risk of arrest, is less appealing than remaining trapped in slavery.

Traffickers frequently force their victims into labour by telling them they must pay back a variety of costs incurred by their travel and employment in a new country. This is known as debt bondage and is an incredibly common coercion tactic used by traffickers to get hours upon hours of free labour. Often, this includes fake work permits that the traffickers claim cost thousands of pounds that the workers will pay for through their labour.

Inside observers

As well as the myriad ways in which traffickers ensnare their victims, they often recruit one of them to watch over the rest of the group to ensure escape is not discussed or attempted. By doing this, traffickers rupture relations between their victims by spreading mistrust and fear. This person often lives with the group of trafficking victims, meaning that they can keep watch all hours of the day.

Violence and threats

Aside from the invisible chains that entangle its victims, the physical signs of trafficking are unmistakeable too. Victims of trafficking are often subjected to violence and abuse, ensuring that they continue to abide by the terms set out by their abusers. Additionally, traffickers frequently threaten to harm the loved ones of their victims back in their country of origin if their demands are not met.

Victims of traffickers do not have the option to hand in their notice or resign, they are physically and mentally trapped in slavery with extremely limited options of freedom on their horizons. We aim to increase the horizons of those who have been trafficked, freeing more and more people from the shackles of exploitation.

Learn about the types of exploitation

There are numerous types of exploitation and human trafficking. Arm yourself with the knowledge today.

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