There are an estimated 136,000 people living on conditions of modern slavery in the United Kingdom (Global Slavery Index 2018). According to the 2017 annual figures provided by the National Crime Agency, 5, 145 potential victims of modern slavery were referred through the National Referral Mechanism in 2017, of whom 2,454 were female, 2688 were male and 3 were transgender, with 41% of all referrals being children at the time of exploitation. People are subjected to slavery in the UK in the form of domestic servitude, labour exploitation, organ harvesting and sexual exploitation, with the largest number of potential victims originating from Albania, China, Vietnam and Nigeria. This data however does not consider the unknown numbers of victims that are not reported. Awais Raza was taken to a children’s home after his mother and father were killed. He describes this home as more like a prison. An older Afghan man helped him escape the abusive and exploitative children’s home and brought him to the UK. Upon arrival he was housed by an Afghan man in Luton and was given a passport. After two years of helping with cooking and cleaning in people’s homes, he sought out an education. At age 20 he was invited to a Home Office interview where he was forced to recount experience he had buried. After hours of questions, he was detained for 13 days before his solicitor could refer him to the National Referral Mechanism. Overall it took five years for Awais to be granted asylum in the UK.
Afghanistan is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation. Afghan boys and girls are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation, forced marriage to settle debts or disputes, forced begging, as well as forced labour or debt bondage in brick kilns, carpet-making factories, and domestic service. Afghan children are also trafficked to Iran and Pakistan for forced labuor, particularly in Pakistan’s carpet factories, and forced marriage. Moreover, both government and non-state groups use children in combat, with the Taliban forcibly recruiting and using children as suicide bombers. 11 year old Yahya was living in poverty when he was sold by his parents to smugglers in Afghanistan. He was then handed over to the Taliban and was trained as a suicide bomber. However, rather than carry out what he had been trained for, Yahya surrendered himself to Afghan security forces. He is now in the care of the Afghan state.