Official statistics show the number of potential human trafficking victims identified in the UK has surged by nearly 80 percent in a year, triggering concerns about modern slavery.
The latest available data from the National Crime Agency (NCA) goes back to 2015, with 306 cases of trafficking reported by local councils and over ten-fold that number by other sources.
Some cities saw a very clear surge in the number of reported human trafficking victims and greater Manchester experienced a 197 percent increase.
Authorities say labor exploitation is the most common fate of trafficking victims in Britain.
In spite of the significant increase in the reported cases of abuse, there are still up to 13,000 victims of human trafficking in the UK.
The figures have alarmed Local Government Association (LGA), a group that represents 370 local councils, calling the situation modern-day slavery and warning it is a rising threat and a major concern.
LGA has urged the British public to be more aware of human trafficking in order to prevent criminal gangs from exploiting vulnerable foreign workers.
“Modern-day slavery is a rising threat to our communities, and because of its hidden nature, is a major concern,” Simon Blackburn, the head of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said.
Blackburn encouraged people to look out for “tell-tale signs,” such as large numbers of people staying in homes and people being taken to and from the address in vans or minibuses early in the morning and returning late at night.
“Tip-offs from communities can help councils work with partners to better tackle slavery and exploitation. A simple phone call could make a world of difference to people living wretched lives at the hands of heartless gang-masters,” Blackburn added.
The NCA report states that there were victims from 102 different countries, though Albanian, Vietnamese, and Nigerian nationals were the most common. People from Sudan make up the fastest growing category of modern slavery victims.
The main obstacle in dealing with human trafficking is the apparent “hidden nature” of the crime, the report said.
There have been several high profile stories that made headlines over the past recent years in Britain, stories that portray migrants in a negative light. Many of them are desperate and in search of a better life from countries that many argue Britain has destroyed or destabilized through war and foreign policy.
One of the most recent cases of modern slavery was revealed last month, in which 16 women were released from a trafficking ring operating in Glasgow.