Survivors of modern-day slavery in Britain are at high risk of falling back into the hands of traffickers because of gaps in the government support system, a report published on Monday said.
After leaving the refuge of government-funded safe houses, victims of slavery often disappear without trace because of a lack of support and monitoring, and can fall prey to further exploitation, a report by the Human Trafficking Foundation said.
Britain passed the Modern Slavery Bill in March to crack down on traffickers, clean up supply chains and to bring in measures to protect people feared at risk of being enslaved.
But the Human Trafficking Foundation said a strategy was needed to ensure survivors receive longer-term support.
If not, "the cycle of abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people may continue unabated," said Tatiana Jardan, director of the UK-based foundation.
Up to 13,000 victims of modern-day slavery in Britain are forced to work in factories and farms, sold for sex in brothels or kept in domestic servitude, among other forms of slavery, according to the Home Office (interior ministry). Most come from Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and Romania.
The global industry is estimated to generate $150 billion a year in profits for those who exploit modern-day slaves.
In 2014, 2,340 potential victims in Britain were referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a government scheme for identifying and supporting victims of human trafficking, said the report, citing National Crime Agency figures.
The NRM allows the survivors a minimum 45-day "reflection and recovery" period in safe houses, during which authorities decide whether they should be considered victims of trafficking.
After leaving the safe houses some survivors return to their home countries, while others are believed to remain in Britain, finding accommodation with friends or contacts, or depending on government benefits.
Some, however, end up homeless and fall back into the hands of traffickers or find themselves in other abusive and exploitative situations, the report said.
"In the safe house someone is there to guide you," one of the survivors told the Human Trafficking Foundation.
"So when you get out from the safe house it's difficult because you are used to people telling you what to do, and it's hard without that help."
Another survivor in a safe house said: "Here you are safe, but when you go out from this house you feel like rubbish because nobody cares, nobody calls you, if you have any problem, nobody cares for you."
While the government doesn't have an obligation to monitor the survivors after they leave the safe houses, long-term assistance and monitoring would help prevent the risk of re-trafficking and exploitation, the report said.