Suspected cases of modern slavery victims in the UK have tripled since 2013, fuelled by inner city children trafficking drugs.
Last year, 5,145 potential victims were referred to the National Crime Agency (NCA) – up from 1,745 in 2013 – many due to fears that children and teenagers are being exploited to sell heroin and cocaine.
For the first time, UK nationals now make up the majority of modern slavery victims reported to the NCA.
NCA Director Will Kerr said that the true scale of slavery and trafficking in the UK was being underestimated.
He said: “Particularly concerning to us is the rise in young people being exploited for sexual purposes or drug trafficking.”
Another recent report revealed that police operations to combat modern slavery have also tripled, from 188 in December 2015 to 568 in February 2018.
In the ITV documentary series The Kyle Files, presenter Jeremy Kyle investigated Britain’s current efforts to combat drugs.
He spoke to a group of anonymous inner-city drug dealers, and was struck by how they had convinced themselves that drugs trafficking was a legitimate business and that they had no choice but to continue.
One youth told Kyle: “I’ve got stabbed, I’ve nearly got shot, kidnapped. That’s what you have to do for the money.”
He added: “You have to survive. You have to get this money.”