How to stay safe from exploitation and access support

Welcome to this web page ! Here you can find information about how to stay safe from exploitation when leaving home for Western Europe, and who to contact if you need support.



You may have had to take a journey to escape conflict, repression and poverty. On your journey, you may meet people who will make false promises to you because they want to make money from your situation or put you into further danger. Criminal networks are aware you may be in a difficult position and they may ask you to do things you don’t want to do, make threats against you or family, use violence or force you to work for little to no money. We want to empower you to understand some of these risks & make informed choices.

You can click here if you would like to make a report, click here if you would like tips to stay safe, and click here for details of organisations that can help you.

In the next section, you can find out more about the difference between smuggling and trafficking and how they can overlap. You can also find information about exploitative control methods such as debt bondage.

Please note that your rights in the UK depend on the legality of your immigration status.

  • If you do not have a work visa, you do not have the right to work and may be at risk of being exploited. You could seek immigration advice from someone qualified to give legal advice , such as an immigration solicitor or advisor (click here for the UK).
  • If you have been trafficked to the UK, you may be entitled to support through the National Referral Mechanism, which some organisations listed below can help you with. You can find out more about what being trafficked means below, under ‘What is Human Trafficking’, ‘Indicators of suspicious and/or exploitative recruitment’ and ‘Indicators of Labour Exploitation’.

You have the right to be safe and free from exploitation, regardless of where you were born, where you come from, and your legal status. You deserve to be safe.

What is Human Trafficking?

Click on the sections below to find out more information.

Human trafficking is the movement or recruitment of people, either through deception, coercion or force for the purpose of exploitation. Traffickers often profit financially from exploiting people. Those leaving migrating across Western Europe can be targeted for exploitative purposes.

Forced criminality is when someone is forced to carry out criminal activity through coercion or deception.

Labour exploitation is when someone is coerced to work for little or no pay, often under threat of punishment.

Sexual exploitation is when someone is deceived, coerced or forced to take part in sexual activity for accommodation or safety.

Organ harvesting involves removing a part of the body, sometimes by force, to sell for profit.

Smuggling and trafficking both involve the movement of people, but there are differences.

Smuggling is a service someone requests, despite the danger, for illegal entry into a country. Once the journey and payments are complete, the exchange ends.

Trafficking involves either forcing a person to travel, or making false promises of jobs or safety at the end of that journey. Exploitation can occur at the final destination and/or during the journey.

Smuggling and trafficking can overlap with gangs working together as a criminal network

  • The smuggler may be in contact with traffickers and provide information about new people arriving.
  • The smuggler may even suggest a ‘trusted contact’ for the person to call on arrival. This ‘trusted contact’ might be a trafficker, waiting to exploit you.

There are many ways people might be lured and trapped into exploitation, including:

  • Grooming, through love or friendship
  • Face-to-face job offers
  • Job offers via social media
  • Help in return for payment later

People migrating across Europe are often offered help with travel in exchange for payment later. Don’t agree unless you know all the details. This is a method traffickers use to control and exploit people and an example of debt bondage.

Debt bondage is when someone is forced to work to repay a real or perceived debt, usually incurred through their travel. Often the debt grows at a rate they are unable to meet, and they have no hope of ever being free.

No one has the right to force someone to work for them, even if money is owed.

It is very important that whatever choice you make, you ensure you put your safety as a top priority.

Traffickers have many faces. They can be any age, gender or nationality.

Survivors often say they were trafficked by partners, spouses, friends, even family members.

  • Traffickers are usually motivated by financial gain and are masters in the art of deception.
  • They know how to gain trust and make you feel special.
  • They often target people with offers of friendship or help with travel or finding work.
  • They may buy you gifts, give you money or offer you drugs or alcohol.

Unfortunately, traffickers prey upon people in a vulnerable situation. When trust is established, the trafficker’s kind behaviour may change, and they become controlling, even violent.  Their aim was to lure you in, only to control and exploit you. They may convince you that the situation, even the abuse, is normal.

Traffickers often force people into doing things they don’t want to do. They will pressure and force people to stay in the situation using threats and intimidation.

The trafficker may convince you the police are on their side. This is a lie. Trafficking is illegal.

Other control methods include:

  • Threats of violence and abuse
  • Threats made against friends or family
  • Threats of prison or deportation
  • Withholding or destroying documents
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Withholding wages or not being paid
  • Debt bondage

If you are in a situation you suspect could be trafficking, there are organisations that can help you. You can also make a secure report of a trafficking incident on the STOP APP.

Report an incident on The STOP APP

Image of the STOP APP on a phone.

The STOP APP enables anybody who knows, has seen or even heard of a situation that they believe to be human trafficking, to talk about it in a safe and secure space. You can report the incident anonymously and securely through the STOP APP. There will be no record of the report submitted on your phone.

Get it on Google Play badge

Make sure you are in safe place away from the suspected incident when making the report.

Upload your contact details if you want us to contact you. You have the option to remain anonymous.

The reports are checked by trained members of our charity, who work in intelligence at the STOP THE TRAFFIK Group. Any safeguarding concerns will be referred to the appropriate organisations.

STOP THE TRAFFIK is a human trafficking prevention organisation. This app collects individuals’ stories of global human trafficking to disrupt and prevent this crime. We are not a rescue organisation and this app is not monitored 24/7 but will be checked on the next working day.  If anyone is in immediate danger or a crime has been committed please contact trusted authorities.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO: Tips to stay safe before you travel

Whatever choice you make, always make sure you are safe.

7 Tips to keep yourself safe from exploitation

1. If approached in person or online and offered shelter or help, never agree unless you know more details.

2.Don’t trust someone who prevents you from contacting friends or family or takes your mobile phone away. They are trying to isolate and control you.

3.Save emergency numbers in your mobile phone. If you are in danger, these numbers will give you quick access to call helplines and services.

4.Always keep your personal ID and travel documents with you. Keep them safe and never give them away.

5.Some people might speak your language or be from your country. That does not always mean you can trust them.6.Remember that no one has the right to force you to do anything you don’t want to, even if they say you owe them money.

7.If offered a job, know the address of the workplace. Share the address with someone you trust.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.

Crossing the Channel safely

At STOP THE TRAFFIK, we advise against accepting offers from smugglers to travel illegally to other countries by sea.

This is highly dangerous, and there is clear evidence to show many people are crossing borders and traffickers are taking advantage of this situation.

We believe knowledge is power, and we aim to provide useful information to people, who may be a risk of or experiencing exploitation. Whatever choice people make is theirs, but we are equipping them with safety information and how to get to help if they need it.

For rescue, call 112

112 should work even if your phone does not have signal.

When you call 112 say you are in distress at sea, ask for the COASTGUARD .

Give your GPS location when you call for help.

Crossing to the UK via sea is very dangerous, and STOP THE TRAFFIK advise against taking this route. However, if you or someone you know decides to take this route, be aware of the following advice from ‘Alarm Phone’.

  • Do not try without an engine.
  • Stay away from ships. They make big waves and cannot see you.
  • At sea, it is colder and there is more wind than on land.
  • Check the weather before. Beware of fog and wind. 
  • Do not try if waves are higher than 0.5 metres.
  • Never get out of the boat or try to swim.
Give your GPS location when you call for help ! Without signal or data GPS still works and you can still call 112 1. Make sure "Location" is on and open Google Maps or similar 2. Press the target button. It may take a while, but your position will appear as a blue dot. Even in the sea, this dot is your correct position. 3. Press and hold this blue dot to "drop a pin" on your current location 4. Your GPS coordinates should appear at the top of your screen. If not, scroll down to look for them. 5. Give these numbers over the pone when you call for help. Say all numbers and symbols slowly and clearly. If you have data, use WhatsApp to easily send your location. 1. Make sure "Location" is on and open WhatsApp 2. In the message with the person who you want to receive your location, press on the Paperclip icon 3. Press the location symbol 4. Send your CURRENT location, NOT your Live location

Finding Work Safely at your Destination

Once you have arrived at your destination, you may try to find work opportunities. Unfortunately, there are some people offering employment who should not be trusted. Sometimes their jobs are not as promised, and may lead to exploitative working conditions. These include

  • withholding of wages
  • deductions in salaries (due to perceived costs incurred by employment)
  • poor living conditions and confiscation of passports and mobile phones

If you have experienced any of the above, this is exploitation and should not be tolerated.

If you moved to the UK, and your job is not what you were promised, there is help available.

Click on the items below to find out more information.

1. Tell people where you are working. Note down the address and share it with your friends and family. You can also send them a photo of the address and share your location on your phone.

2. Save emergency numbers on your mobile phone and always keep it with you. Make note of support organisations that can help you.

3. Always keep your ID, travel, and personal documents safe. Do not let your employer hold on to them.

4. Employment contracts can be there to protect you if they are legitimate. The lack of a contract poses a risk to your working rights, such as being paid for your work.

Some offers of employment might not be legitimate.

You should be suspicious of any recruitment process which has any of the following characteristics:

1. You are asked to pay a fee to secure the job

2. You are told an employment contract is not required

3. The recruiter does not check your right to work

4. The recruiter pressures you

5. The recruiter demands secrecy

6. You are not told the salary at any stage in the recruitment process

7. The organisation has minimal online presence

You can report suspicious job ads within The STOP APP.

You should not have to experience any of the following at work:

  • Not being paid for your work
  • Being withheld your wages
  • Being denied breaks and/or annual leave
  • Restricted movement
  • Restricted or no access to your earnings
  • Being subject to intimidation, coercion, and/or physical or emotional abuse
  • No access to your personal documents
  • Excessive working hours

If you have experienced any of the above, know this should not be tolerated.

You can report such incidents within The STOP APP. If possible, document all violations at work in the form of photo/video materials. If anyone is in immediate physical danger, or a crime is being or has been committed, call the 112 European emergency services.

Make sure to make a note of what happened, including details of:

  • What the incident was
  • When it happened
  • Where it happened
  • Who was involved

The National Minimum Wage is the minimum pay almost all workers are entitled to. In most countries, employers are bound by law to pay their workers a national minimum wage.

You can visit this website for information about National Minimum Wages in over 200 countries.

If you have the right to work in the UK, you have the right to be paid a minimum wage for the work you do. The National Minimum Wage in the UK depends on your age:

  • Minors, under 18 years old: GBP 5,28
  • 18-20 years old: GBP 7,49
  • 21-22 years old: GBP 10,18
  • 23 years old and over: GBP 10,42

This rate will likely change in 2024. Click here more for information. 

Help and Support Available

If you, or someone you know, is in immediate physical danger or your life is being threatened, you can contact the law enforcement number below for help.

The 112 European emergency number

If you or anyone you know are in immediate danger, call the 112 European emergency number. The number is free of charge, 24/7, anywhere in the European Union. Citizens can dial 112 to reach the emergency services, including the police, emergency medical services and the fire brigade.


Otherwise, below are organisations that can help you. Click on the country in which you are currently located in to see the help available to you.

Different & Equal organization

Different & Equal (D&E) is a non-profit organization in Albania dedicated to providing high quality services for the protection and reintegration of victims of trafficking, exploitation and abuse, and to changing the legal, institutional and social context to counter these abuses. D&E provide direct reintegration assistance to VoT through case management by a multidisciplinary team and through a victim centered approach. Provision of comprehensive, long-term, reintegration services (residential and community based) include: medical care, psychological assistance, legal counseling and assistance, vocational training, preparation for job placements and job placement, education and reinsertion into school system, family mediation and helping build social support, mentoring and life skills development for long-term reintegration, housing, monitoring and follow up.

Tel: +355 (4) 222 18 92

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.differentandequal.org

Qendra Vatra

“Vatra” Psycho-Social Center is an Albanian non-profit organization, which provides direct services for the prevention and protection of victims of human trafficking, victims of domestic violence and all forms of gender-based violence, as well as their children. We provide various services, including shelter and accommodation support, education, access to basic needs, and economic, psychological, medical, and legal support.

Tel: + 355 69 88 84 613 (24 hours)

Email: [email protected]


Mary Ward Loreto Foundation

Mary Ward Loreto work in both Albania and the UK to help those most vulnerable to Human Trafficking through rescue, reintegration, rehabilitation, and prevention. In addition to providing immediate shelter and psychological and legal support to those rescued, we run a number of programs to prevent future Trafficking, including economic empowerment, education, and community empowerment. MWL has its outreach in six regions of Albania: Tropoja (Kukes), Puka (Shkoder), Lezha and Rreshen (Lezha), Tirana, Lushnja, and Saranda through established Advice and service centres and Youth Centres. If you need support, you can contact us at:

Email: [email protected]


Coordination du Dispositif National Ac.Sé

The National Network for the Assistance and Protection of Human Trafficking Victims (le Dispositif National Ac.Sé) offers accommodation and support at a geographical distance from the place of residence of the victim of trafficking who may be at risk locally. It also acts as a resource centre for professionals in contact with victims.

+33 4 92 15 10 51

[email protected]



Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline

The modern slavery and exploitation helpline provides information, advice, and guidance about any modern slavery issue relating to potential victims, businesses, and the public in the whole of the UK. We are free, confidential, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and available in 200 languages.

08000 121 700


The Salvation Army

If you, or someone you know, might be a victim of modern slavery and are in need of help, you can call The Salvation Army Referral Helpline. It is free, confidential, and available 24/7. This is for individuals over 18 from within England and Wales. We will connect you with First Responders who will speak to you about what happened and pass this information to decision-makers to see if you can access specialist support.

0800 808 3733


Medaille Trust

Medaille Trust provides supported accommodation at nine safe houses in the UK for victims of modern slavery. Our safe houses provide personalised support, helping survivors to deal with their trauma and empowering them to rebuild their lives. Our Moving On Project provides tailored one-to-one support to survivors to help reduce their vulnerability to re-exploitation and help them to move on with their lives. We also work in Albania targeting poverty as a key factor pushing people into the hands of traffickers. Our Entrepreneurship Academy in Albania provides training to local enterprises to help them develop sustainable businesses which can offer employment opportunities to Albanians so that they do not become victims of modern slavery. Medaille also provides support to law enforcement agencies in operations to rescue modern slavery victims and bring their perpetrators to justice. If you need help you can contact us at:

0800 06 999 16

[email protected]

Or self-refer at: https://www.medaille-trust.org.uk/moving-on/moving-on-project-referral