LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Up to 100 people suspected of being trafficked into Britain to work mainly in the sex industry have been refused entry at a Scottish airport in the past nine months, authorities said on Thursday, amid a nationwide crackdown on modern slavery.
Border Force North said its officers, who monitor Britain’s ports and airports, interviewed more than 300 people flying into Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, in a bid to stop trafficking gangs selling people into brothels.
More than 80 percent of the 300 people interviewed were Romanian, and less than 50 were male, Border Force said, with about 100 refused entry and sent back to their home country.
Border Force said many victims did not know they were going to be sold into prostitution, including an 18-year-old girl who had just left school, had no money and believed she was going to work in a hotel in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
“This is about safeguarding vulnerable young women, and men, who are being trafficked and exploited as well as protecting the communities people are living in,” said Gordon Summers, assistant director at the unit, part of the interior ministry.
“Often these women have been forced into this lifestyle against their will and they are exposed to violence and intimidation by the gangs who brought them here. They are powerless.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May promised in October to step up efforts to eradicate modern slavery, a crime affecting an estimated 46 million people worldwide and generating $150 billion in illegal profits a year.
Britain passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 to crack down on traffickers but the prosecutions are hard to secure, partly because those involved are afraid to speak out.
On Tuesday, police raided three Chinese restaurants and an address near Birmingham in central England and discovered 20 men living in “poor conditions” whom they suspected of being trafficked.
A police spokesman said most of the victims were from Slovakia and Romania. A Slovakian man and woman were arrested on suspicion of slavery offences.
The National Crime Agency said in August that human trafficking is on the rise across Britain, casting doubt on an earlier estimate that 13,000 victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude are hidden in Britain.
The agency identified victims from 109 countries last year, the majority from eastern Europe, Vietnam and Nigeria.
Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Katy Migiro.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org