Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

IOM has been working to combat human trafficking for over 20 years across the globe, through activities such as capacity building, research and data analysis and direct assistance to victims. In the UK, we have been working on human trafficking and modern slavery issues since 2011, in line with the following four pillars: training and capacity building, improving victim support, international collaboration and private sector engagement.


Training and Capacity Building

IOM delivers bespoke human trafficking and modern slavery awareness-raising sessions and training for frontline professionals working across a variety of organisations who may come into contact with potential victims in the course of their work. The sessions equip participants with an understanding of the issues, the key indicators to be aware of to detect potential cases of trafficking, and ways to take action. These sessions are CPD accredited, with content endorsed by the office of the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Across the UK, we have trained over 2,000 frontline professionals and others, including social workers, healthcare professionals, housing officers, embassy staff and faith-based organisations. Most recently, IOM was commissioned along with Stop the Traffik, to develop a suite of multi-agency awareness-raising materials for local authority, police and NHS staff across London, supported by a train-the-trainer methodology.

We are also implementing a pilot project with the London Borough of Croydon to support foster carers who look after unaccompanied asylum seeking children who have been or may be at risk of trafficking or going missing, through activities that aim to increase their confidence and capacity. The project provides foster carers with training, online materials and the opportunity to participate in forums and online forums with experts and other foster carers. It aims to help them recognise children who have been trafficked or who may be experiencing exploitation, with culturally specific information on Albanian and Vietnamese children, who are most at risk. Information about foster care in the UK is also provided directly to the young people themselves in their own languages. Barnardo’s is a key partner in delivering this project. More information about the project is available here.


Improving Victim Support

Over the past twenty years, all over the world IOM has provided direct assistance to almost 90,000 victims of trafficking. It is essential that people affected by human trafficking and modern slavery are provided with appropriate short and long term care to help them recover from the exploitation they have endured. We work alongside various counter-trafficking non-governmental organisations to help improve the way in which this support is provided to victims in the UK and in their country of origin if they choose to return. IOM advocates for a stronger, victim-centred National Referral Mechanism (NRM) with improved decision-making and better end-to-end care that extends as long as necessary to support their recovery.

IOM also provides voluntary return and reintegration assistance for victims of trafficking and modern slavery from a number of EU countries who would like to return home but require some support to do so. Using our global network of offices, IOM carries out risk assessments and identifies reintegration support services in the country of origin, including access to shelters, psychosocial support and support with entering the job market. Currently, voluntary return and reintegration support can be provided for those from Czechia and Romania. We also advocate for improvements to voluntary return and reintegration programmes for victims of trafficking returning to all countries, ensuring that there are adequate risk assessment procedures in place and that comprehensive reintegration assistance is provided by care providers with knowledge of the country context.


International Collaboration

As transnational issues, human trafficking and modern slavery requires strong collaboration between governments, civil society and academics across many different countries. Using our global network of offices and partners, we work to facilitate information sharing and engagement between the UK and key countries of origin from which people are most commonly trafficked.

We are working with the University of Bedfordshire on a research project exploring vulnerabilities and resilience to human trafficking in Albania, Nigeria and Viet Nam – three of the key countries of origin for people referred into the NRM as potential victims of trafficking. Using IOM’s determinants of migrant vulnerability model to help shape this study, the aim is to gain a more informed understanding of contextual factors shaping trafficking at an individual, household and family, community and structural level. The findings can help inform future programme designs around prevention, identification, referral and assistance in each of the countries. This will also enhance understanding of the support needs of people from these countries trafficked to the UK. The final report for this research project is available here with the executive summary available here.

IOM is also engaged in global-level actions and coordination efforts on human trafficking and modern slavery, through our headquarters in Geneva and our UN special liaison office in New York. Amongst our initiatives, within the Alliance 8.7, a global partnership committed to take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour, in accordance with Target 8.7 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, IOM leads the action groups on Migration, and Conflict and Humanitarian Settings. 

​​​​​​IOM is also working on a number of partnerships on data sharing. This includes the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery, a partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation, for which IOM provided anonymised data on close to 40,000 victims of trafficking the organisation has assisted.


Partnerships / Private Sector Engagement 

The presence of human trafficking and modern slavery in the operations and supply chains of many businesses internationally and in the UK is a significant concern, with a majority of the estimated 25 million victims of forced labour in the world being exploited in the private economy (Global Estimate on Modern Slavery, ILO-Walk Free, in partnership with IOM, 2016). 

Through the International Recruitment Integrity System (IRIS), IOM is developing a voluntary multi-stakeholder certification system for labour recruiters to support ethical recruitment of migrant workers. It is comprised of an international standard, certification scheme and a compliance and monitoring mechanism. For businesses and migrant workers, IRIS serves as a due diligence tool for the assessment of labour recruiters. Find out more about IRIS here.

"Migration is one of the key realities of our time. It cuts across communities, influences priorities, and shapes societies.
To realise the benefits of migration for migrants and host communities alike, our responses must be innovative, collaborative and designed beyond the immediate."


Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of the IOM UK Office