Nail bars are a common sight on Britain's high street where Southeast Asian women wear surgical face masks shielding their lungs from chemical fumes and their sadness from customers eyes.
The majority of the girls don't speak English and could be victims of human trafficking. Customers are there often because the nail bar is cheap.
For the first time in the UK, members of a gang who trafficked young Vietnamese women around nail bars have been jailed for a total of nine years.
Giang Huong Tran, 23, Viet Hoang Nguyen, 30 and Thu Huong Nguyen, 49 were convicted of human trafficking and modern slavery offences.
"The victims worked for no money and were trafficked between nail bars according to demand," Senior Crown Prosecutor Eran Cutliffe said in a statement.
"They were hidden from the authorities in order to avoid detection whilst being exploited in plain sight within our society."
'Pure Economic Greed'
Passing sentence in what is the first case of its kind in Britain to bring members of a gang to justice over nail bar exploitation, Judge Michael Chambers QC said the young women had been exploited for "pure economic greed." Stafford Crown Court heard the defendants were "devious and manipulative."
The victims in this case were "treated by traffickers as commodities" and all had "traumatic childhoods" and were forced to live and work in poor conditions.
The teenage girls, aged 17 and 18 were discovered in a nail bar in Bath, England and placed in the care of social services in February 2017 but went missing soon after.
They were then traced to another salon in Burton upon Trent were two further teenagers were found to be exploited in the nail bar. The young women have been trafficked to other nail bars in Cheltenham, Gloucester and Derbyshire.
New Nails & No Footprint
Detective Inspector Charlotte Tucker who led the operation for Avon and Somerset Police told London newspaper The Independent: "It's so tragic to think that in the age we're living in now we've got young vulnerable girls being forced to work in the UK.
"They find themselves in a sophisticated money-making operation but their vulnerabilities are so apparent."
"These girls have no footprint," DI Tucker said.
"They've never been seen by a GP, never been to school — the language barrier is massive."
This case is the first successful prosecution for child labor, exploitation and child trafficking under the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
As we enter 2018 we need to commit to making the UK a place where #ModernSlavery does not pay. All those involved in safeguarding, law enforcement, policy & business must collaborate.— Kevin Hyland OBE (@UKAntiSlavery) January 1, 2018
Vietnam is one of the top three source countries for potential victims of modern slavery, who are often exploited in cannabis farms and nail bars.
NEW BLOG POST: 10 highlights from 2017 — "a year of challenge and change". https://t.co/RZecswSlKc— Kevin Hyland OBE (@UKAntiSlavery) January 3, 2018
More than 3,800 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in the UK in 2016, according to the National Crime Agency, National Referral Mechanism statistics.
"More than a quarter of all trafficked children go missing from local authority care," according to report, Heading Back to Harm: a study on trafficked and unaccompanied children going missing from care in the UK, 2016 published by charity ECPAT UK and Missing People.
There is “limited availability of specialist provision” for migrant children identified as potential victims of #modernslavery, a new report has found; strengthening our call for urgent reforms to the way the UK responds to trafficked childrenhttps://t.co/CibKbdRWsX#Trafficking— ECPAT Campaigns (@ECPATUK) January 3, 2018