"In the last 200 years we haven't come that far," Klara Skrivankova, trafficking program coordinator at Anti-Slavery International, told Reuters on Tuesday, March 20.
"Slavery is pretty much universally abolished ... but in reality it flourishes and a lot of people profit from it."
People are being bought and sold several times over and pushed into the sex industry to repay "debts" demanded by their traffickers.
Others are trapped in inhumane conditions working for little or no pay in hotels and restaurants, on farms or in private homes.
"This is a commodity as far as these criminal networks are concerned and they're making huge money from it," said Detective Superintendent Mark Ponting, who heads a new 11-strong London Metropolitan Police unit to target human traders.
He added that women were being brought into the country and sold for up to 8,000 pounds ($15,570).
The government estimates at least 4,000 women and children were in Britain in 2003 as a result of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Rights activists say many more are in all forms of forced labor.
They are victims of what is now the third largest illicit trade in the world after narcotics and weapons, with an estimated annual value of $32 billion.
Britain marks on Sunday, March 25, the bicentenary of the parliament act that illegalized the slave trade.
"There are still modern examples of slavery and people trafficking that we need to act against," Prime Minister Tony Blair said last week.
Today's victims are no longer overwhelmingly Africans.
At the Poppy Project, a London safe house scheme for women trafficked into sex work, the top four source countries are Lithuania, Albania, Nigeria and Thailand.
Daniela was 16 when a friend of her father's convinced her to leave home in Romania to work as a hotel maid in Britain.
"When I got here I realized I'd been tricked," said the 19-year-old who like other victims wanted her identity concealed.
Told she owed 1,500 pounds for passage and papers, she was taken to a flat where she was raped and beaten by her minders and forced to have sex with men to pay off her "debts".
"They threatened me with a knife and told me they would kill my mother and sister if I behaved badly, if I refused to see men or tried to ask for help," she said.
Daniela, who entered Britain illegally, hidden under a truck by her traffickers, escaped when police raided the flat.
They took her to the government-funded Poppy Project.
Faisal, a chef from Morocco, was lured by promises of good pay and housing to a restaurant in southern England.
"Once I arrived, I saw the reality was very different," he said.
"I had to live in the stockroom: no toilet, running water. Even so, 100 pounds was deducted each week for this ... and I was (often) denied wages.
"The employer threatened me with deportation if I complained."
Growing official awareness of the problem has led to a number of initiatives in the last year.
In March 2006 the government tightened legislation on gangmasters after 23 Chinese laborers drowned while collecting shellfish in a northwest England estuary in 2004.
The UK Human Trafficking Centre, a police-led body dedicated to understanding and tackling the issue, was set up in October.
A nationwide police blitz on brothels and massage parlors last year uncovered 84 people trafficked into the sex trade, including 12 children.
Blair said in January Britain would sign the Council of Europe convention on human trafficking.
Yet, rights groups insist police have been too narrowly focused.
"There have been no anti-trafficking operations in the area of forced labor, all have been into sexual exploitation," said Beth Hertzfeld, a spokeswoman for Anti-Slavery International.
"There's been a law against trafficking for forced labor since 2004 and not a single prosecution."
Particularly vulnerable are domestic workers like Teresa, 37, from Mumbai, who worked 18 hours a day for 20 pounds a month from an employer who made her sleep on the floor and beat her, until she escaped thanks to a concerned neighbor.
"My madam was very cruel," said Teresa.
"She hit me on my stomach. She regularly tried to strangle me."Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16