Police raid on ‘slave’ factory in Rochdale highlights problem of horrific modern-day slavery in the UK

Three men are under arrest after a raid on a factory in Rochdale this week which rescued 20 eastern Europeans who were being used as slave labour.

The raid was part of Operation Retriever which is an ongoing police investigation into human trafficking in the UK.

The men and women who were rescued were working 80-hour weeks for £2 an hour and were receiving around £25 a week after being charged for their rent, travel and other costs. The victims were subjected to physical and verbal assaults by their “employers”.

The suspected slave masters were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to require another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and conspiracy to commit trafficking offences.

This is the face of modern-day slavery in the UK.

At the same time, the Modern Slavery Bill, first tabled in June 2014, is working its ways through Westminister. Labour MPs are advocating an amendment to the Companies Act within the Modern Slavery Bill that will require large businesses to report on human trafficking and slavery within their supply chains. It will demand a guarantee from large companies to show that their supply chains are “slavery free”.

We often think that slavery is something which happens in other countries, that it isn’t something which happens here. This case has brought forward the horrible truth – slavery exists in modern-day Britain.

In the UK it is estimated there could be as many as 13,000 victims of slavery. Most harrowingly, it would appear this problem is only getting worse – recent figures show a 22% increase in trafficking in the UK since 2012.

The Salvation Army has also noted a 135% increase on the number of trafficking victims that the charity now supports – 42% of them had been involved in labour exploitation.

We need to do more, both at EU and UK level to combat this horrific crime – let’s make slavery a crime from the past – it should have no place in the twenty-first century.