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People traffickers face jail

People traffickers who smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain to work as "domestic slaves" or as organ donors will face up to 14 years in jail under new legislation being drawn up by the Home Office.

Hundreds of people a year are illegally brought into Britain, often under the promise of lucrative work, and a significant number end up working as virtual slaves for families. They often have their false identity papers confiscated, are given little or no pay and suffer mistreatment.

The legislation, which could be announced in the Queen's Speech on 26 November, forms part of government and police attempts to reduce the growing problem of people smuggling. Under the proposals, outlined yesterday, a new offence of "trafficking for labour exploitation and debt bond-age" will be introduced with a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail. Bondage can occur when illegal immigrants are forced to work to pay off "debts" for non-existent services such board and lodging. People who want to leave or go to the police are sometimes threatened with violence or told their families will suffer.

The new offence will also cover cases in which people are smuggled into Britain and forced to give an organ in part payment. This type of abuse does occur on the Continent, but the Home Office said yesterday that there was no evidence of the trade in Britain.

Beverley Hughes, a Home Office minister, said: "We're trying to make the legislation as inclusive as we can so that it will incorporate debt bondage and domestic slavery, forced labour and organ harvesting." She said concessions might be offered to people who give evidence against trafficking gangs.

The Home Office is already bringing in a separate offence against people who smuggle illegal immigrants into Britain to work in the sex industry.