INVERCLYDE is at the centre of a human trafficking ring with properties in the area being used by criminal gangs to exploit women who are forced into the sex industry.

A campaigning councillor says the victims, from both eastern Europe and south Asia, are taken in and out of properties in Highholm Street, Port Glasgow and Belville Street, Greenock.

Colin Jackson, who has alerted the authorities, today lifted the lid on the vile trade and also warned that investigations have raised other serious cases.

He told a Municipal Buildings meeting that vulnerable young women from the poorest parts of Inverclyde are being transported to Scottish cities every day to work as prostitutes.

Cllr Jackson is now appealing for the public's help to crack down on the horrific industry fuelling modern day slavery.

He told the Telegraph: "I am raising the taboo subject of sex workers.

"It was reported to me and there is evidence to suggest there is human trafficking and exploitation within Inverclyde, with women being forced in to prostitution.

"Two properties have been identified, one at Highholm Street and one in Belville Street.

"Asian woman and eastern European women have been seen being taken in and out of these flats.

"This fits the pattern of modern slavery, moving victims between towns and cities."

"When I raised this with the authorities, I was also informed by police officers that they are aware of young women from the poorest parts of Inverclyde who are taken to Glasgow and other Scottish cities to work as prostitutes."

Councillor Jackson says he is working with the authorities to tackle the issue but he believes the public must be made aware so they can play their part in protecting vulnerable individuals.

He said."I am calling for more public awareness on how to report if anyone suspects trafficking."

It follows recent national reports that Inverclyde is on the radar for human trafficking at premises such as car washes, nail bars and takeaway restaurants.

Anti-trafficking expert Jim Laird, who is human trafficking lead at Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership, is reported to have called for tougher sentences on those caught operating the gangs, who are mostly Asian and eastern European.

During a meeting of the council's health and social care committee Cllr Jackson challenged health and social care bosses to act.

He said: "I would be surprised if officers were not aware of this as I have spoken to Women's Aid and the police."

The head of children's services and criminal justice Sharon McAlees gave him assurances that her staff were working with other agencies to target human trafficking and told him she would welcome talks with him.