SLAVERY, rape, sexual exploitation. These may seem like threats facing women in a third-world country but they are very real danger in Croydon.
The borough has been revealed as the third worst place in London for hiding women, men and children who have been trafficked for use as sex slaves, domestic slaves or labourers.
In Croydon, women bear the brunt of this illegal trade, perpetuated by trafficking rings who sell them for sex and strip them of their freedom through imprisonment and fear.
In the last ten years, the number of establishments trading in trafficked people is thought to have halved in Croydon – from around 120 to 60.
This is according to Peter Cox, of Croydon Community Against Trafficking (CCAT), a charity that collects intelligence on potential traffickers and raises awareness about the issue.
He founded the group in 2004 after The Poppy Project ranked Croydon behind only Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea as the worst areas in London for trafficking.
Last week, he spoke to the Advertiser about his fear of the issue slipping from the police agenda and the importance of the public in helping to crack down on the trade.
"It is very difficult to keep trafficking at the forefront of the public's mind – it is easy to do nothing about something you can't see.
"But the reality is that people are being trafficked from Europe and beyond, as well as within the UK, and a lot of them end up here."
CCAT leads a group of intelligence gatherers who scout out potential places harbouring trafficked people, gain details by calling as clients and then, every two months, pass the data to police. Normally, the charity hands over around 20 to 30 suspicious addresses each time.
The borough is thought to be particularly bad for trafficking because of the location of the UK Border Agency (UKBA). Thousands of people flood the building every week seeking asylum or refuge. While their applications are looked at, many are housed in hotels and hostels in the area where vulnerable and often unaccompanied people are preyed upon by pimps and traffickers.
"Anyone who wants to make money out of another person's vulnerability can be a trafficker," said Mr Cox. "It is not restricted to culture or nationality, it's the second biggest international trade – worth $32 billion."
The charity worker explained how volunteers call up potential brothels pretending to be punters with distressing detail.
"It is often places advertising saunas or massages," he said. "The volunteers ask what time they can visit, whether more is on offer, what is on offer."
At times, the person on the other end has offered women for rape and other forms of sexual assault.
Mr Cox then explained what happens after trafficked people are discovered by the police: "In 2009, the National Referral Mechanism was brought in. It gives trafficked people 45 days' shelter while agencies work out whether it is safe for them to return home. Before that, victims were often treated like illegal immigrants and shipped back to where they came from where they were either murdered, shamed or recycled back into the trade."