13/09/2011 19:17 BST | Updated 13/11/2011 05:12 GMT

Modern day Slavery

Modern day slavery is rearing its ugly head in cities across the UK as reports of unscrupulous gangs targeting rough sleepers have started to emerge.

Homeless charity Thames Reach has come across 20 cases of people fleeing these gangs and seeking help back to their homelands, sometimes fearful for their lives.

London has in recent years seen a reduction in the number of UK rough sleepers but a large increase in the number of rough sleepers from Central and Eastern Europe who entered the country seeking work after European Union expansion.

These homeless people, often desperate to find work, are targeted by gangs who visit services such as soup runs and day centres in London where they congregate. The gangs lure people with false promises of paid work, to other sites across the UK.

Here they are often held against their will in properties and then shipped out in vans every day to work in factories, only for their wages to be withheld from them. Some are being made to work 12-hour days and their only reward is cheap alcohol.

Many have been the victims of violent assaults by the gang leaders - one man showed the Thames Reach worker helping him the burns on his wrist from where he had been handcuffed to a radiator.

Life on the streets as a rough sleeper can be extremely dangerous but the sheer criminality and brutal nature of these gangs has taken the threat of living on the streets to a new level.

Homeless charities will be working closely with the police in coming weeks and months to help the affected individuals and ensure slavery has no place in our society in the 21st century.