A government minister has warned that some manicurists are being forced into prostitution – and urged customers to find out more about their lives.
Karen Bradley, the first ever minister for preventing abuse and exploitation, said some nail salons in Britain were secret brothels where women worked as nail technicians during the day and were prostituted at night.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, she called on people to "be nosy" and ask their manicurists, cleaners and builders more about their lives. Many Britons would be surprised to learn the level of abuse and torture on their doorstep, she warned.
Her warning came as new measures in the Modern Slavery Act – aimed at stamping out the horrific trade once and for all – came into force on Friday. Bradley defined modern slavery as the "control and ownership of one human being by another human being".
"Lots of people might come and tarmac your drive," she said. "You might not notice what they all look like, you don't notice who they are, but there may be a gang behind it. It can be nail bars — sometimes you see nail bars as a front for a brothel, the girls will work in the nail bar during the day and they'll be prostituted at night."
Bradley urged people to watch for signs that workers are being exploited; whether they are window cleaners, roofers or beauticians. "Just have a chat," she said. "Everyone does it in the hairdressers. Inquire about the people that you're dealing with.
"Ask them how they are, where do they live, do they know the area, where are their family, just get into general conversation. You might well pick up that there's something not right, that the person doesn't really know the area, they don't know where the family are, they're very hesitant, very uncertain.
"So just: be nosy. Don't be shy to think to yourself: that's not quite right. And if you have any doubts, come to the authorities, the local police or the Home Office."
Bradley said she had met one person who had spotted a brothel above a hardware shop in west London, across the road from where she lived.
"The windows above the shop, the curtains never opened," she said. "And she knew there were people in there. I'm not saying that's happening everywhere but that can be an indication."
For more information on how to spot the signs of modern slavery or report it, visit modernslavery.co.uk or ring 0800 0121 700.
Emily Ashton is a senior political correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Emily Ashton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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