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Report: Trafficking victims may be tattooed to 'signify ownership'

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it has seen some evidence of potential trafficking victims being marked with tattoos - like branding.

The report found that victims were marked with "various symbols signifying ownership or to show that a victim is over 18".

It’s a simple as branding cattle and I can put it in no more stark terms than that. This is how they view the traffickers, as something that they buy and sell.

– Liam Vernon, United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre

The report said it included the evidence to give front line responders another sign to look out for when dealing with potential victims.

Car wash industry a growing destination for trafficking

The number of potential slavery victims exploited in car washes has risen from just seven cases in 2012 to 30 in 2013. Half of these were from Romania.

There has been a 328% rise in the number of potential trafficking victims going to car washes Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The National Crime Agency found that many of these were forced to work for low pay and bound to traffickers through debt bondage.

Of those trafficked for labour exploitation, most (around 10%) were put to work in the paving and tarmacking industry by members of the UK Traveller community.

There were also significant numbers being exploited in the agriculture, construction and food industries.


Report: UK is Number One country of origin for trafficked children

The number of potential victims of human trafficking who are British more than doubled to 128 last year.

The UK is now the Number One country of origin for trafficked minors, jumping ahead of Vietnam, Nigeria, Slovakia and Romania since 2012.

The most common form of exploitation for girls was sex, while for boys it was mainly labour or criminal purposes.

The sharp rise in British girls being potentially trafficked reflects growing awareness of the problem following reports into the abuses in Rotherham and Rochdale.

What does 'modern slavery' mean?

The term modern slavery was coined in 2013 to collectively describe the crimes previously known as human trafficking, slavery, forced labour and domestic servitude.

The Modern Slave Bill, introduced to the House of Commons in June 2014, will make it easier for authorities to pursue and prosecute individuals suspected of these crimes.

Rise in number of minors trafficked for sexual exploitation

The number of children being trafficked for sexual exploitation has risen dramatically in the UK, according to estimates from police, government departments and other agencies.

Sex is the predominant form of exploitation among underage potential trafficking victims Credit: PA

The National Crime Agency's new report on the issue estimates that 602 children were potential victims of human trafficking out of a total of 2,744 last year.

Almost 90% of all the minors suffered sexual exploitation - more than triple the proportion seen in 2012.

The National Crime Agency warned that exploitation was well hidden, and that the real figures were likely to be much higher.

  • If you believe someone is a victim of modern slavery you can contact the police on 101 or 999 if it is an emergency.
  • You also report it at or contact the government's Modern Slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700.

Govt: 'We don't know the scale' of slavery in UK

The Government needs the public to become more aware of the plight facing modern day slaves so they can be freed and the perpetrators brought to justice, a Home Office minister told Good Morning Britain.

Karen Bradley admitted the Government did not "know the scale" of slavery in the UK and urged the public to "learn what to look for" via the Home Office awareness campaign.

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