Criminal gangs have tightened their grip on modern slavery in the UK, according to a new report by the Salvation Army.
The church and charity said more victims of organised criminal gangs are being referred to their modern slavery services than ever.
Last year 3,068 people were rescued and supported in safe houses and outreach services, the majority of whom had been forced to commit crimes, work against their will, or coerced into sex work. This is a 15 per cent increase on the previous year.
The report also revealed 46 per cent of those referred to them experienced labour exploitation such as being forced to work in factories, building sites or farms with little or no pay, a 36 per cent rise from the 2020-2021 period.
Meanwhile, 23 per cent experienced sexual exploitation, a ten per cent rise, and 19.5 per cent experienced criminal exploitation like being forced to sell drugs - a 27 per cent rise.
Major Kathy Betteridge, The Salvation Army's director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery, said: "Organised crime is at the heart of the modern slavery. Violent gangs think nothing of trafficking people to sell and force them in criminal activity. It's also important to remember that it's not just people who are trafficked from overseas, British people are the second most common nationality in our services. The sophisticated and often brutal methods used to trick and manipulate people into slavery touches all nationalities.
"You can help The Salvation Army and the police in our battle against this vile trade in people's lives. People trapped in modern slavery are hidden in plain sight in villages, towns and cities across the UK. We can all help fight modern slavery and raise the alarm if we spot something suspicious and are worried that someone is being exploited. So many of the people we support in our services had been trapped for years but your call could be the start of their path to freedom and recovery."
Over the last eleven years, The Salvation Army and its partners' specialist support workers have helped 18,291 survivors get medical care, counselling and legal advice and a safe place to stay where needed.