Everyone needs to open their eyes to problems of human trafficking, Catherine Bearder MEP and Kent Community Against Trafficking (KCAT) urged today (Monday).
It comes as Osezua Osolase, from Gravesend, in Kent, was jailed after being found guilty of five counts of trafficking, one of rape and one of sexual activity with a child.
The 42-year-old targeted orphans with the promise of a better life before trafficking his victims from Nigeria to Europe, Canterbury Crown Court was told.
Catherine, who has spearheaded trafficking awareness raising campaigns, said communities needed to wake up to the problem.
She said: "The message is clear: Open Your Eyes. We need to be alert to the signs.
"Whenever I say: 'It's happening in your neighbourhood,' I see the raised eyebrows. People imagine Kent is a world away from this vile industry.
"But it is happening. Along leafy suburban streets, quiet cul-de-sacs, in sedate country backwaters. Human beings are being bought and sold and business is booming."
Osolase, who was jailed for 20 years, used 'juju' witchcraft to entrap his victims, the court heard.
Cliff Grieve is a former detective superintendent and chairman KCAT.
He said: "This horrendous case goes to prove human trafficking is happening in Kent and not just in the big cities, in the small villages too.
"KCAT has been working to spread the message that we all need to be vigilant to human trafficking in our communities.
"We have been working with students at the University of Kent and have begun working with taxi drivers to ensure they know what to look out for."
Catherine added: "Modern day slavery means men, women and children are being hawked for sexual exploitation, forced begging and domestic servitude. Customers and victims are not confined to backstreets in third world countries.
"Like all business, the gangmasters who profit go to great lengths to make sure their cargo get to places where demand is highest."