LABOUR exploitation needs to be more closely monitored, say university researchers.
After a three-year study, a report published by Durham University says monitoring of forced labour in the UK is weak and needs to be strengthened.
The report, led by Durham, Bristol and Dundee universities, finds that although it is hidden, the practice is a significant and growing problem.
And there is growing evidence that the numbers of people trafficked for labour exploitation will exceed those trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Professor Gary Craig, lead author at Durham University and professor of community development and social justice, is concerned that workplace enforcement agencies are now doing fewer inspections and becoming focused on only the most serious offences.
He said: “Workers experiencing forced labour are brought to the UK in a variety of ways. Some are smuggled into the country, some are asylum seekers and others are trafficked.
“But many are here legally and fall into forced labour through coercion, deceit and manipulation.
“In many cases, they are given contracts that they do not understand, the gangmasters withhold their passports and documents making it very difficult for them to escape, and put them heavily into debt which they can never repay.”