WITHIN minutes of walking into the nail salon, I had an unsettling feeling that something wasn’t right.

The young women working there, all Chinese, seemed cowed and unhappy behind the masks they wore. A man stood over them, watching their every move. It was a small space, the pungent stench of nail chemicals at times overpowering, and the women were constantly active. It seemed like a horrible working environment, I felt uncomfortable being there and was glad to leave.

I wondered later if this was modern slavery. But I did nothing about it. I’m not a frequent user of nail bars; I only went to this one because I was out shopping with my niece and she was booked in for some blinged-up false nails, so I decided to get a quick polish. She’d used the salon before and when I mentioned my suspicions she shrugged and said: “They’re always miserable. They probably don’t get paid much.”

I didn’t report the nail salon, just as I didn’t report the time my friend and I were in a pub garden and noticed two men sitting with a sad-looking, silent young woman. Did we just imagine that she looked frightened? Were the men doing some kind of deal, in a language we didn’t understand, before one of them left with the woman? Was he holding her roughly by the arm? Would human trafficking really take place in a suburban beer garden?

It’s easy to think of reasons not to report such things. But, as West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said in the T&A this week, the public has a “key role to play in stopping modern slavery” by reporting suspicions, no matter how small. Disturbing videos of a slavery victim talking about his experiences are on the T&A website as part of a UN human trafficking awareness initiative. The survivor suffered 15 years of abuse, forced to dig out driveways, living in a trailer with no windows or doors. “If I didn’t work I got beaten up,” he said.

At the end of last year there were 121 referrals (73 adults, 48 minors) by West Yorkshire Police to the National Referral Mechanism, which identifies and supports victims of human trafficking - an increase of over 40 referrals in 2018.

We know modern slavery is happening in our society. We know it involves kidnap, grooming, exploitation, debt bondage, violence, passport withdrawal. We’d just rather not think about it. Yet, maybe not far from our own homes, there are people living in squalid, windowless trailers and basements who are victims of trafficking and slave labour. They may be painting nails, washing cars, cleaning houses, toiling in factories, imprisoned in brothels. Last December the T&A reported 77 arrests for human trafficking in Bradford (the highest in West Yorkshire) since new legislation in 2015.

The issue of modern slavery is currently being tackled very well in Coronation Street, a show with the power to bring such issues into millions of living-rooms. Young builder Seb Franklin has discovered that his Romanian girlfriend, Alina Pop, is living in squalor and forced to work in a nail salon, terrified of a controlling boss. Hopefully, by highlighting the reality of slavery, albeit within the confines of a teatime soap, more people will start to look for signs that something isn’t right - physical or psychological abuse, fear of authority, irregular activity at addresses and unsettling working conditions.

Being aware of such indicators and reporting suspicions, no matter how small, could end up saving lives.

* SO Amber and Greg head into the sunset with £50,000, after winning Love Island.

What a soppy lot they all were. Their ‘declarations of love’ on this week's final were toe-curling: “You’re the most incredible dad to our Elly-Belly,” Molly-Mae told Tommy, referring to the cuddly toy they, weirdly, shared a bed with.

Curtis was even more cringeworthy, telling Maura: “Once upon a time there was man on a journey. He had one goal...to find a princess. This princess wasn’t just any princess, she was the most beautiful princess in all the lands...”

Oh pur-lease! I give it a month.

* BRADFORDIANS aren’t big on civic pride. So it's inevitable that the naysayers will have a whinge when Bradford’s UK UK City of Culture 2025 campaign gets underway.

I say: Let’s just give it a go. If Bradford wins this title, it will mean millions of pounds of investment. It would lead to a culture-led regeneration reaping significant social and economic benefits for the district.

The success of Londonderry, Hull and Coventry in this competition gives hope to Bradford. It’s not always the ‘obvious choice’ cities that win now (as Liverpool did in 2008).

Bradford has much to shout about, and this bid needs public support. Leave the naysayers to whinge, while the rest of us get on with wanting the best for our district.