Human traffickers will be given life sentences in the worst cases, under new sanctions to tackle slavery in the UK, in new legislations planned by ministers.
The number of cases of human trafficking discovered in the UK has risen by 25% in the last year, with trafficking on the rise from countries like Albania, Poland and Lithuania.
A new report by the inter-departmental ministerial group on human trafficking has revealed that 1,186 victims were referred to the authorities in 2012, compared with 946 victims in 2011. The largest number were from Romania, Vietnam, Nigeria, Albania and China.
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Figures released this week from the Global Slavery Index highlighted that at least 880,000 people are forced to work in slave labour conditions across Europe, including 270,000 victims of sexual exploitation.
Victims' Minister Damien Green told Sky News that the National Crime Agency will have a key role to play and the new anti-slavery Bill will introduce tougher sentences and sanctions for gangmasters who exploit not just foreigners but the many Britons who are forced into work via threats and coercion.
On Friday, Labour MP Frank Field will formally launches an evidence review for the Government’s Modern Slavery Bill.
Evidence sessions will be held up until December and Field will present a report to the Home Secretary before Christmas. The report will scope out the content of the Bill that the Government intends to introduce in Parliament next year.
Field said: “We now have an opportunity to once again establish the United Kingdom as a global leader in the fight against slavery. The review will mark a decisive turning point in better protecting victims whilst turning the firepower of the state against slave owners and traffickers running this evil trade”.
The launch of the review was welcomed by Home Secretary Theresa May, who said: “We must all work together if we are to end the scourge of modern slavery and the organised criminal gangs behind it.
"I am grateful to Frank Field for undertaking this work and I know that he shares my determination to rid modern Britain of slavery.”