As Many As 13,000 People In The United Kingdom Are Living And Working In Slavery

A 26-year-old Lithuanian woman saw an ad for cleaning and waitressing jobs in the U.K., answered the ad, and was accompanied to London with a “job agent.” Once in England, however, her “agent” confiscated her passport and forced her to work as a prostitute. If she told anyone, she would be deported back to Lithuania, The Independent reports.

The woman is one of an estimated 10,000 to 13,000 people in the United Kingdom who are living in modern-day slavery, forced to work in sex trafficking, agricultural work, or domestic work. and their numbers are growing. In 2012, the National Crime Agency’s Human Trafficking Centre estimated the number of slaves in the U.K. at just over 2,700; the most recent reports suggest numbers quadrupling that.

Home Secretary Theresa May says, via The Guardian, that these estimates mean that the U.K. government needs to act quickly to address the problem of slavery.

“The first step to eradicating the scourge of modern slavery is acknowledging and confronting its existence. The estimated scale of the problem in modern Britain is shocking and these new figures starkly reinforce the case for urgent action.”

Human trafficking knows no racial or ethnic bounds. People from over 100 different countries — including Nigeria, Vietnam, Albania, and even native born Britons — have been trafficked into or through the U.K.

Modern Slavery Minister Karen Bradley tells The Guardian that slavery is a problem because it happens in the shadows.

“What we have to do today is not make people acknowledge it’s wrong – everybody knows it’s wrong – but we have to find it. It’s going on in streets, in towns, in villages across Britain and we need to help people find the signs of it so we can find those victims and importantly then find the perpetrators.”

Earlier this week, according to this Inquisitr report, U.K. police broke up a Somali ring accused of trafficking young African girls into sexual slavery.

To address the slavery problem in the U.K., a bill has recently been introduced called The Modern Slavery Bill. The new law would impose life sentences for people involved in the slave trade; would create a legal defense for people forced to commit crimes (such as prostitution or drug trafficking) as slaves; and would provide support for victims of slavery after they are rescued.

Still, the Home Secretary says the U.K.’s new anti-slavery legislation is only a starting point toward addressing the scope of what she calls an “appalling crime.”

“Modern slavery is a complex problem and legislation is only part of the solution.”

As of this post, it is not clear when the new anti-slavery legislation will take effect.

[Image courtesy of: NPR]