We provide specialist support for victims of human trafficking

Trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. Victims are brought to the UK, held against their will and forced to work. Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights says that no one should be subjected to slavery or forced labour. Unfortunately, the reality is very different. Every year an estimated 2.4 million people are trafficked globally. It is the world's second most profitable crime.  

In the UK trafficking remains a largely hidden crime with few victims coming to the attention of authorities. Official figures from 2014 estimated over 2,000 victims were found in the UK, but experts belive the real number to be much higher. 30% of victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation and, of that number 80% are female children. 

In response to this issue, the AIRE Centre undertakes UK based advocacy and litigation that specifically covers this area of law. We provide free advice and representation for EU victims of trafficking to assert their rights to protection and assistance under the Council of Europe Trafficking Convention including the right to a residence permit, social assistance, and social security appeals. Further, we have delivered several essential training sessions for practitioners working with trafficked persons. We have also recently managed two projects; the Early Legal Intervention Project and the Esmee Fairbarn project.

Throughout all of our human trafficking projects, we have been supported by the Esmee Fairburn Foundation, the Prevention of and Fight against Crime Programme of the European Union, Comic Relief and the European Programme for Integration and Migration (EPIM). With their help we have been able to significantly expand our ability to provide advice and representation for victims of trafficking and their representatives and engage with these issues at the policy level, both nationally and at the European level.

If you are a victim of human trafficking or are looking for advice on behalf of someone who is, call us on our advice line. Our advice line is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10:30am and 6pm on 020 7831 4276 or email us at i[email protected]

Markella Papadouli speaking at St Michael's Catholic School


Early Legal Intervention

The ELI Project aims to ensure early identification of victims of human trafficking by sharing best practice with our partner organisations. The project aims to protect victims by ensuring that member states and the EU respond properly to their needs. We believe that by strengthening cooperation between states and civil society, at both national and international levels, we will be able to better uphold victims' rights. We want to make sure that victims recieve support in their role as witnessses against traffickers and their right to recieve an adequate recovery period where they can speak to counsellors and access social assistance is respected. The project ended in January 2016 finalising in a speech at the European Parliament.

Toolkits and Training Sessions

Teachers’ Convention in St Michaels Catholic School

On 18/07/2016 Markella Papadouli, AIRE Registered European Lawyer and Legal Project Manager provided training to 60 teachers from all over London on the importance of early identification and early legal intervention for victims of human trafficking. During the conference, which brought together numerous speakers on a wide spectrum of topics, Markella aimed to raise awareness of the Early Legal Intervention toolkit, which was created in the framework of the ELI EU funded project, to which the AIRE Centre was a partner.  With Markella’s speech as a stepping-stone, fruitful discussions followed focusing on the role of education to assisting the fight against human trafficking as well as on the impact of the ongoing migration pressure in the Southern borders of the European Union to trafficking as an organised crime.

For further information on the ELI toolkit please see here.

In order to get a pan-Europe perspective, we have been working with the Immigration Council of Ireland, the LSA (Legal Services Agency, Scotland), MONIKA (Multicultural Women's Association, Finland, BGRF (Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, Bulgaria) and KSPSC (Klaipeda Social and Pyschological Service Centre, Lithuania). 


Esmee Fairbarn Project

Funding from the Esmee Fairbarn Foundation has enabled the the AIRE Centre to undertake this project which addresses two main issues: trafficking and domestic violence. For more information about the projects impact on domestic violence see our page on Domestic and Gender Based Violence. 

The AIRE Centre has significantly expanded its provision of advice and representation for victims of human trafficking and their representatives and has provided several essential training sessions for practitioners working with trafficked persons. The AIRE Centre has successfully advised and advocated on behalf of EU victims of trafficking who have found it difficult to assert their rights to protection and assistance under the Council of Europe Trafficking Convention including the right to a residence permit under this Convention and also in social assistance and social security appeals.

In addition, the AIRE Centre has played a major role, as representatives or as a third-party, in trafficking and Article 4 cases before the European Court of Human Rights. Our work before the European Court has made it possible for victims of trafficking who have been denied adequate protection, assistance or whose cases have not been investigated domestically to now bring their claims to the Court. It has further enabled victims of trafficking in European countries that have not ratified the Council of Europe Trafficking Convention, to apply to the European Court of Human Rights for remedies.

For further information on tailored trafficking training packages please contact Markella Papadouli at [email protected].


You can also watch the AIRE Centre's Markella Papadouli TEDx Talk on 'Trafficking: Seeking Solutions to a Hidden Crime'


- L & Ors v The Children's Commissioner for England & Anor [2013] EWCA Crim 991