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Revealing the hidden scars of human trafficking

8 August 2017
Revealing the hidden scars of human trafficking

A landmark project by researchers from King’s College London has revealed the severe mental health problems experienced by victims of human trafficking in the UK.

The PROTECT (Provider Responses, Treatment, and Care for Trafficked People) research programme included a study of 150 people trafficked to the UK from more than 30 different countries, with nearly 80 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men reported high levels of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Other studies highlighted health professionals’ lack of knowledge on how to respond to victims, and the barriers to appropriate health care.

Funded by the Department of Health, PROTECT has informed the NHS response to human trafficking by providing evidence about the healthcare needs and experiences of trafficked adults and children; documenting NHS experience, knowledge and gaps about trafficked people’s healthcare needs; and providing recommendations on the content and format of training materials to support NHS staff to identify, refer and care for trafficked people.

Since the final report was published last year, the PROTECT team has presented these findings to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Human Trafficking and prepared evidence for the judiciary on the difficulties experienced by victims of trafficking and the impact this has on their ability to provide testimony in court. The research has also informed guidance provided by NHS England and the UK government.

Dr Siân Oram, lead author of the studies from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London, said: ‘Although it is very difficult to estimate the true scale of human trafficking, we know that it is a huge, global problem.


‘Because of the clear evidence that human trafficking has devastating and long-lasting effects on mental health, there is an urgent need for evidence on the effectiveness of psychological therapies and treatments to support this highly vulnerable population.’

PROTECT was led by King’s and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and represents independent research commissioned and funded by the Department of Health Policy Research Programme. The views expressed in the publication are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the Department of Health.

For more details of the full PROTECT report and papers, visit the King’s website.

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