ALMOST 200 victims of modern slavery in the North-East were supported by a charity service in the last year– the second highest rate in the country after London.

A report released this week revealed that 193 people in the region have been identified as victims and referred to The Salvation Army’s specialist support service which it has ran for the Government for seven years.

The figure rose almost nine per cent compared to the year before, when 176 people were referred. Of those supported in the last 12 months, 15 people victims were British.

Most were women and cases included people who had been trafficked for labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and to work in the drugs trade.

Director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery for The Salvation Army, Kathy Betteridge said: “The increase in the number of British victims referred in the past year is significant, many are being forced into criminality and exploited because of their vulnerabilities.We have supported people from 86 different countries and every story is different. What is important is that anyone in this situation right now needs to know we are here to help and support is available to keep them safe and help them move on with their lives.Our dedicated referral line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and we strongly urge anyone who sees something which doesn't look right, a person who seems to be in a situation against their will or without autonomy to please report it.This is a crime that is happening right across the country and we all need to play a part in supporting victims and bringing it to an end.”

The Salvation Army's dedicated referral line 0300-3038151 is open 24 hours a day.