VULNERABLE women and girls are being brought into the area and used as sex slaves.

Crime gangs are trafficking refugees to use as prostitutes - some underage - and block booking hotel rooms in Barrow and across the south Lakes.

So far it is believed that police have shut down three so called 'pop up brothels' at Barrow hotels recently and continue

The women involved have not been prosecuted but treated as victims and given the help they need.

One Barrow landlady said she was shocked when she found prostitutes were using her property.

After trawling her CCTV she now has images of local men regularly visiting prostitutes.

She said the discovery made her realise what a dark seedy underbelly Barrow has.

Slavery is not an issue confined to history or an issue that only exists in certain countries - it is something that is still happening today. 

It is a global problem and the UK and south Cumbria is no exception.

As well as sex slavery people are being used in work in the hospitality trade and agriculture and it isn't confined to just women being used as slaves.

Victims found in the UK come from many different countries, including Romania, Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and the UK itself, 90 were UK nationals in 2013.

Poverty, limited opportunities at home, lack of education, unstable social and political conditions, economic imbalances and war are some of the key drivers that contribute to trafficking of victims. What’s more, victims can often face more than one type of abuse and slavery, for example if they are sold to another trafficker and then forced into another form of exploitation.

DI Nick Coughlan
Detective Chief Inspector Nick Coughlan said: "Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. It is where a person is brought to, or moved around the country by others who threaten, frighten, or hurt them and force them to do work or other things they don’t want to do.

"In Cumbria officers are trained in investigating such issues in a professional way.

"It is important however to be aware of warning signs of trafficking as the indicators can be subtle. If you notice someone who has shown signs of consistent abuse, have no identification documents in their personal possession, sleep in unhygienic conditions, are unwilling to seek different employment due to fear of what could happen to them please contact police.

"Victims of trafficking may be forced to commit crime and offer services of a sexual nature.

"If you suspect someone of being a victim of trafficking please contact police on 101 or alternatively you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."

United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre is a multi-agency organisation led by the National Crime Agency. 

It provides a central point of expertise and coordination in relation to the UK’s response to the trafficking of human beings.

Liam Vernon, deputy head of the organistation, said: "Human trafficking is an appalling crime that has devastating effects on its victims who are often the most vulnerable people in our society. Investigating this type of exploitation is a challenge to us all as victims are often unseen by society. There could be many more out there which is why, together with Crimestoppers and the police, the UKHTC wants to raise awareness and help the public understand the signs to look out for."

Slavery is closer than you think

SLAVERY is not an issue confined to history or an issue that only exists in certain countries - it is something that is still happening today. 

It is a global problem and the UK is no exception.

There is no one face of slavery – victims can be men, women and children of all ages and cut across the population. 

But it is normally more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups.

The most recent figures from 2014 show Britain has between 10,000-13,000 victims scratching a living in the UK.

The estimate comes from a review of police sources, the UK Border Force, charities and other bodies. It far outweighs 2013's figure by the National Crime Agency’s Human Trafficking Centre, which put the number at 2,744, including 600 children.

However, even the smaller estimate represents a 22 per cent jump.

The most vulnerable individuals were women forced, or lured, into prostitution, trafficked or otherwise held against their will. Others include “imprisoned” domestic staff and people working in factories, farms and immigrants working in the fishing industry.

Slavery's hidden nature means actual numbers are likely to be far, far higher.

Modern Slavery is an international crime, affecting an estimated 29.8 million people around the world. 

It is a global problem that transcends age, gender and ethnicities, including here in the UK and it’s important that we bring this hidden crime into the open.

Types of trafficking include

Sexual exploitation:

Victims are forced to perform non-consensual or abusive sexual acts against their will, such as prostitution, escort work and pornography. Whilst women and children make up the majority of victims, men can also be affected. Adults are coerced often under the threat of force, or another penalty. 

Criminal exploitation:

Often controlled and maltreated, victims are forced into crimes such as cannabis cultivation or pick pocketing against their will. 

Domestic servitude:

Victims are forced to carry out housework and domestic chores in private households with little or no pay, restricted movement, very limited or no free time and minimal privacy often sleeping where they work.

Child trafficking:

Young people (under 18) are moved either internationally or domestically so they can be exploited. 

Forced Labour and debt bondage:

Victims are forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to. Low wages and increased debts mean not only that they cannot ever hope to pay off the loan, but the debt may be passed down to their children. 

Forced labour:

Victims are forced to work against their will, often working very long hours for little or no pay in dire conditions under verbal or physical threats of violence to them or their families.

It can happen in many sectors of our economy, from mining to tarmacking, hospitality and food packaging.

Slavery a part of modern history

TWELVE years ago 23 Chinese cockle pickers drowned when they were trapped by sweeping tides while working in Morecambe Bay.

Yet, campaigners say workers are still being dangerously exploited in the UK.

Twenty-one bodies were recovered within hours, a woman’s skull was washed up six years on and one man’s body has never been found.

All were working illegally, picking cockles for hours on end to send money back to their families.

Gangmaster Lin Liang Ren would drive the workers to Morecambe from Liverpool and visit casinos while the men and women toiled through the night.

Mick Gradwell, the detective who led the investigation into the tragedy, said criminals were funnelling £1m per day to China by exploiting workers all around England.

“Tens of thousands of illegal Chinese workers were living in the country, building up hidden communities and building a life below official recognition.”

The former detective superintendent, who is now retired, said: “The main reason 23 people died in Morecambe Bay on this particular night was because of poverty in the Fujian province of China.

“There is a constant threat and risk of people being abused like this and dying because they’re being forced to work in dangerous conditions.”

Professor Gary Craig from Durham University said there was a “real problem” getting people to acknowledge that “slavery exists in the UK” and warned there were “accidents waiting to happen”.

“People tend to think that slavery is something to do with faraway countries with poor human rights records,” he said.

“Well, actually, slavery is here and now in the UK and the research which I’ve done with colleagues suggests there may be upwards of 10,000 people at any one time in the UK in conditions which we would class as modern slavery.”

How to spot the signs of modern slavery

There are many ways in which it is possible to spot someone who may be a so-called modern slave.

Physical appearance:

Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn.


Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work.

Poor living conditions:

Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and or living and working at the same address.

Few or no personal effects:

Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work

Restricted freedom of movement:

Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, e.g. passports

Unusual travel times:

They may be dropped off and or collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.

Reluctant to seek help:

Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.

If you think a person's life is in immediate danger call 999.

If you suspect slavery is happening and there is no immediate threat to life you can report it by calling the Modern Slavery helpline on 0800 0121 700 or fill in an  online form

Read more about modern day slavery  here  and what to do if you suspect its going on near you

Read about how suspected people smugglers were arrested in the north last month  read more