LAST month a Bulgarian couple staying in Enfield were sentenced to prison terms and recommended for deportation for human trafficking and controlling prostitution.

Sentencing them, the judge described human trafficking as a "widespread problem within the UK".

Now a report investigating the link between off-street prostitution and human trafficking in Enfield was presented to a committee at Enfield Council earlier this year.

It is being produced by the POPPY Project, Britain's only specialist support service for women trafficked into prostitution.

Anna Johansson, support manager at the POPPY Project, describes the UK as a destination country for human trafficking for sexual exploitation.

She said: "There's demand here so someone is going to be purchasing this service.

"And with a very particular type of environment with supposed massage parlours a lot of these go undisturbed. I don't think it's to do with immigration policy."

The victim in the case of Saisho Yankov and Asie Isufova, featured in the Independent last month, originated in Bulgaria and was a 32-year-old single parent from the country.

However, the perception that the problem is mainly associated with Eastern Europe is misplaced.

Ms Johansson said: "We only work with adults, but generally they are very young. Women somewhere between 19 and 22.

"A lot of the cases that we are seeing at the moment are African women or south-east Asian women."

She said that the victims supported by the POPPY Project were usually happy to assist police, but that cases did not always reach trial "For various reasons very few cases do result in trial," said Ms Johansson. "One of them is that these cases are quite complex to investigate.

"Also the fact that it's a covert crime, people use aliases. Victims find their experience very traumatising and find it difficult to talk about.

"They may not have much evidence - if you've been kept locked up in a house for a couple of weeks, there's not much that you are going to be able to say."

Preventing human trafficking has recently moved up the agenda with prostitution and the trafficking of women described as the third most profitable black market' crime after drugs and arms smuggling.

The Government recently signed up to the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking which will become law once it can be implemented.

Labour MP for Hendon, Andrew Dismore, who chairs the joint select committee on human rights at Westminster, said: "There are a range of things we need to do in relation to trafficking.

"One thing is preventative work with potential victims of trafficking, particularly in home countries, to make them aware of the risks.

"We must do a lot more to protect victims of human trafficking. We have won that argument within Government and, in particular, the Government has now agreed to the convention on trafficking."

However, Mr Dismore said that "woefully out-of-date" statistics remained an obstacle for tackling the crime.