London: The number of people, including children, being trafficked into the UK is rising, with gangs in China, Nigeria and eastern Europe targeting the country, according to an official report.
In 2011, thes authorities learned of 946 victims, compared with 710 in 2010, the inter-departmental ministerial group on human trafficking said.
Trafficking gangs in China, Vietnam, Nigeria and eastern Europe now pose the biggest threat to the UK, it said.
The report said 712 adult victims and 234 child victims were reported last year to the National Referral Mechanism, the official body that identifies and looks after those caught up in trafficking.
Of the victims referred in 2010, 524 were adults and 186 were children.
It is thought the increase could be explained by improvements in identifying victims, although campaigners say the figures of those being trafficked could be far higher as many victims choose not to come forward for fear of being deported, the BBC reported.
The report suggested an increase in the number of children being forced into crime, including street begging.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimates there are about 300 child trafficking victims in the UK every year.
Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland of London`s Metropolitan Police said some victims travelled to the UK in lorries or containers but the majority arrived lawfully, often accompanied by their traffickers.
Hyland said it was often "almost impossible" for border guards to spot victims because they often did not even know they were being trafficked.
Many victims are promised jobs in the hotel or leisure industry, or as interpreters, but when they arrive they are "groomed or threatened" and used for sexual exploitation, forced labour or both, he said.
The report said the largest number of referrals of potential victims of trafficking were Nigerian nationals. From within Europe, Romanian nationals were the biggest group referred.
There are an estimated 92 organised crime groups in the UK with known involvement in human trafficking, it said.
Commenting on the report, Immigration minister Mark Harper said the results demonstrated UK professionals were getting better at "spotting" the crime due to "cross- government" cooperation.
"We`re doing a better job of cracking down people involved in the vile trade," he
told BBC Radio.
But the number of those prosecuted was "not enough," he said.