Police in the UK have announced dozens of arrests as part of a Europe-wide operation to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking.
The operation coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and involving 18 different police forces, as well as the Border Force, took place between 17 and 23 June.
As a result, 44 people were arrested and 35 potential victims identified in the UK – while across Europe, 70 arrests were made in an operation to tackle child trafficking.
The NCA stated 19 of the 44 people arrested were suspected of offences related to sexual exploitation, including keeping a brothel and controlling prostitution for gain.
Four people were arrested for human trafficking, and 21 more of those arrests were for possessing indecent images and immigration offences.
Of the 35 potential victims identified and safeguarded, 18 were minors.
According to the NCA, most of the victims were subject to labour and criminal exploitation as well as sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.
The majority of the potential trafficking victims came from East Asia, with nine Vietnamese nationals and eight Chinese nationals among those identified.
Five of the potential trafficking victims were British.
The NCA stated: “Information gathered during the operation has led to the launch of 20 new police investigations.”
The operation is the latest since the Modern Slavery Act was introduced in 2015 to support those affected and bring perpetrators to justice.
However an independent review earlier this year found the legislation was not strong enough to combat an illegal trade that “pervades every community” in the country.
Modern slavery encompasses forced labour, domestic servitude, human trafficking, exploitation and other crimes, all of which target the most vulnerable people in society.
Previous government estimates suggested there were up to 13,000 victims in the UK, but experts have said the number is significantly higher –potentially up to 136,000.