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Hundreds of human trafficking victims being used as slave labour in Wales
by - 24/09/2012
"Hundreds of human trafficking victims are being used as slave labour in businesses across Wales, police suspect.
Hotels, restaurants, takeaways, shops, farms, factories and nail bars are being looked at by officers investigating “corrupt employment age"
Hundreds of human trafficking victims are being used as slave labour in businesses across Wales, police suspect.
Hotels, restaurants, takeaways, shops, farms, factories and nail bars are being looked at by officers investigating “corrupt employment agencies” filtering illegally trafficked people into the workplace.
In many cases the firms employing the workers are legitimate, but there are warnings that anyone caught using people forced into labour could face years behind bars.
There are about 200 suspected victims of trafficking in Wales, according to a paper written by the country’s first anti-human trafficking co-ordinator.
Examples cited in former police officer Bob Tooby’s Government reports include a food processing factory with more than 100 workers and a cleaning company exploiting a potential 52 victims.
Slaves are also being forced to work at cannabis farms and being used as “scapegoats” when the illegal operations are busted, while the traffickers rake in millions of pounds.
A charity which rescues trafficking victims revealed the shocking case of a Ugandan woman used as a slave by a Cardiff family and made to live in their basement.
Gwent Police’s Deputy Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said the types of enforced labour in Wales were “many and varied”.
He added: “What we do find in most cases is that this is a hidden crime.”
DCC Farrar, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on trafficking in Wales, said those responsible ranged from individual perpetrators right the way up to organised crime groups.
“Our grasp on the full picture of what’s happening in and around the UK is not tight enough yet,” he said. “Our aim is to eliminate it from our country and that needs a concerted effort from everybody – the most important thing is to recognise it when they see it.”
Chris Goulden, head of the poverty research team at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said research had shown there was “blatant exploitation” of migrant workers in the food industry.
Interviews with more than 60 workers across the UK showed many migrants paid fees to traffickers to travel to the UK and secure work, leaving them indebted to their gang masters.
They often suffer abuse and live in overcrowded, filthy conditions, often with little or no wages.
Mr Goulden said: “Migrants are working under threatening and inhuman conditions for very little or no pay in different parts of the food chain from production and processing through to restaurants.
“The intensity of work in the food industry, driven by economic pressures throughout the supply chain, contributes to such exploitation.”
An AM leading the crackdown on trafficking in Wales warned company bosses caught employing slave labour would be held responsible.
Labour AM Joyce Watson, chair of the All-Party Working Group on Human Trafficking in Wales, said: “The onus is very much on the employers – they can’t shirk from that.
“If you are employing large numbers of people and if they are coming through agencies then you have to be absolutely on the ball to know that they have come through legitimate means.”
She added: “If it is the case that we have got unscrupulous employment agencies operating in Wales then we need to uncover them and make sure they immediately cease operations because ultimately it will end up with people suffering significantly as a consequence of just trying to earn an honest day’s wage.”
DCC Farrar said a multi-agency intelligence hub was due to be launched in Gwent initially focusing on vulnerable runaway girls, but likely to be expanded to include human trafficking.
The idea is to better to share intelligence between authorities such as local councils, health services and charities. This is a key recommendation in Mr Tooby’s final report to ministers, in which he calls for the creation of an All-Wales Intelligence Hub.
A Welsh Government spokesman said consideration of a hub will form part of the next anti-human trafficking co-ordinator’s work.
More Details: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2012/09/23/hundreds-of-human-trafficking-victims-being-used-as-slave-labour-in-wales-police-suspect-91466-31888629/