Liam Vernon: The risks for the labour traffickers are still too low

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The Independent Online

The Connors case is an unusual one because most of the victims are British nationals. Labour exploitation and trafficking is a complex crime and the true scale of it is largely hidden. What we do know is that the UK Human Trafficking Centre saw a 35 per cent increase in the number of potential trafficking victims from 2010 to 2011.

More than half of those were for slavery, servitude and labour exploitation. For this type of crime, the risks for criminals are still too low and the benefits for them in terms of money are still high. That balance needs to be addressed.

The Connors case is a stark example of an appalling type of exploitation that can be seen elsewhere in the UK. Last year there were 493 adult and child victims of domestic or labour exploitation referred to the centre, with 18 of them from the UK. We've seen men, women and children coming from 51 countries being controlled and exploited for their labour.

A significant proportion are from within the EU and countries like Romania, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The victims are often deceived by the attraction of lifting their families out of poverty.

Last year the numbers referred for labour exploitation and domestic servitude was on a par with sex trafficking. The traffickers control their foreign victims by taking away their identity documents and then warning them that they will be locked up if they try to leave. Considering some of the places from where they have come and the level of corruption there, it's hardly surprising that they believe this.

Liam Vernon is deputy head of UK human trafficking centre, serious and organised crime agency