Police found 17,000 of the 30,000 women involved in the off-street sex trade are migrants, mostly from China, Thailand and eastern Europe. They said at least 2,600 of these were trafficked and made to work as prostitutes, often with threats of violence.
A further 9,600 sex workers at brothels and other premises were considered to be “vulnerable migrants”, but researchers could not be sure they had been trafficked into the country.
Some of those forced to sell their bodies are made to pay off bonds of up to £30,000 by criminal gangs responsible for the multi-million pound underground trade.
The figures were contained in a report by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and is the first of its kind to reveal the scale of the crime.
It followed a two-year study aimed at improving understanding of the nature and scale of the trafficking of foreign nationals for sex, known as Project Acumen.
Nottinghamshire Deputy Chief Constable Chris Eyre, the national lead on migration crime, said: “Human trafficking for sexual exploitation involves the most extreme abuse of individuals in our communities.
“The publication of this report represents not the end of the process, but the start.”
Eyre added work will continue to shut down trafficking routes and to bring criminals to justice.