By Jo-Anna K. Burnett
Britain needs a new 'modern slavery act' to stop hundreds of people in the UK falling victim to trafficking each year, according to the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).
Sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced labour and criminality all featured in the cases the think-tank uncovered in its investigation into the 1,000-plus people in the UK who were trafficked in 2012.
The group condemns the government for its inadequate response, and is seeking significant changes, including a new slavery act, an anti-slavery commissioner and a change to the oversight of trafficking.
"Our research has uncovered a shocking underworld in which children and adults, many of them UK citizens, have been forced into lives of utter degradation,” said Christian Guy, managing director of the CSJ.
"Authorities are either failing to understand the nature of this abuse or turning a blind eye to its existence."
Since trafficking is a criminal matter, the policing minister rather than the immigration minister should deal with the issue, the CJS suggested.
It argued the appointment of an anti-slavery commissioner, modelled on the children's commissioner, could help in a counter-offensive against lawbreakers forcing people into labourers, servants and sex workers.
The authors of the report also want the Border Agency to abandon its role in trafficking cases to encourage more victims to come forward.
"Numerous victims of modern slavery are being prosecuted for offences they have committed as a result of being trafficked," Guy added.
"This may include immigration offences or, in cases where Vietnamese people, often minors are trafficked into the UK to work in one of the thousands of British cannabis farms, drugs offences."
Andrew Wallis, chief executive of anti-human trafficking charity Unseen and Working Group Chairman of the CSJ report, said that people in the UK are bought and sold as mere commodities for profit, gain or gratification.
"How on earth have we arrived at a place where there is no ambition or leadership to stamp out this appalling crime?" he asked.