Child trafficking and exploitation

If you’ve been affected by child trafficking and exploitation, or are worried about someone else, there are ways to get help and support. You don’t have to cope alone.

What is child trafficking?

Child trafficking is when young people are tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes and are moved and then exploited, forced to work or sold. Child trafficking and exploitation are types of child abuse.

Children and young people can be trafficked into the UK from other countries, and also within the UK. They could be moved to a different country or even within the same town or village. Traffickers could work alone, be part of a small group or a large organised group.

If you’ve experienced child trafficking and are being exploited it can be really hard to recognise what’s happening. You may feel trapped and like you have to do something you’re uncomfortable with or don’t want to do. 

Facts about child traffickers

Traffickers might:

  • try to befriend you online or in person
  • be someone who's befriended your family
  • be a family member
  • threaten you or your family or claim you owe them a debt
  • promise you or your family a better life elsewhere.

Child exploitation

Young people are trafficked so that they can be exploited. Child exploitation is when you are forced or tricked into doing something you don’t want to do for someone else’s benefit.  Exploitation and trafficking involve many types of abuse and neglect.

Some of the things you could be forced to do are:

You don't have to cope alone

If any of these things have happened to you, it isn’t your fault. We can help you to get support for child trafficking and exploitation, whether it's happening now or has happened in the past.

Support for child trafficking and exploitation

If you’ve experienced child trafficking or exploitation, you may have mixed feelings about the person who’s exploiting you. It can feel confusing because on the one hand they’re making you do things that you don’t want to do, but they could also be really nice to you, give you nice things and be there when you need them.

Traffickers and others who exploit young people are very skilful at becoming your friend and building a relationship with you so that they can exploit you. This is called grooming. They then make you feel like you have to do things that you don’t want to. And often use physical, sexual or emotional abuse to control you. Nobody should be making you feel like this. No one has the right to manipulate you into doing things you’re uncomfortable with.

You could feel ashamed of the things you’ve experienced or been forced to do, but none of these are your fault. They are entirely the fault of the person who exploited you.

It can feel difficult to get out of a situation where you’re being exploited, but there is always help available. You don’t have to go through it alone.

How to get help

  • Runaway Helpline: They can listen and offer confidential support if you have been forced to leave home. You can call or text them 24/7 on 116 000.
  • Modern Slavery Helpline: You can speak to an advisor who can help you access relevant services. You can call them 24/7 on 08000 121 700. You can also report what’s happening on their online form and their app.
  • Fearless: You can report crimes and how you are being exploited 100% anonymously through their online form.
  • You can also contact Childline, we are here to listen and support you with anything you may be going through.

Worried about someone else

If you’re worried someone you know is experiencing or could be at risk of child trafficking or exploitation, it’s important to know what to look out for. Signs that this might be happening include:

  • their behaviour has changed, they could be more aggressive or more withdrawn.
  • they’re wearing the same clothes as the day before
  • their appearance has changed and they may look run down or like they haven’t washed
  • they're travelling a lot
  • you're seeing less of them
  • they’re anxious to respond to phone messages quickly
  • they have new friends that pick them up from school
  • they have new gifts like a phone and clothes, and can’t explain where they got them
  • not having contact with their family or feeling uncomfortable talking about where they live.