Police raided a Birmingham food factory following suspicion that people were being abused there for ‘slave labour’.
Police intelligence indicated that people were not only working in sub-standard conditions but their remuneration was far below the stipulated minimum wage.
After the raid which took place on May 3, about 70 suspected slave labour victims are reported to have been safeguarded by West Midlands Police. The people are said to include Latvians, Lithuanians and Pakistani-British nationals, all of whom can opt to lodge a criminal complaint against the factory.
The police officers who raided the Star Frozen Foods Ltd in Tyseley searched the site and also two neighbouring residential properties. They questioned five people thought to belong to the management team at the facility.
The officers carried out the operation in conjunction with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the Food Standards Agency, Home Office Immigration, the West Midlands Fire Service, the National Crime Agency, The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.
Suspicion of slavery crimes’ arrests
There has been a series of operations by West Midlands Police which have resulted in the arrest of more than 40 people suspected of committing slavery offences in the last 12 months – with this operation being the latest one.
FoodManufacture.co.uk has communicated with Star Frozen Foods for a rejoinder to the claims.
West Midlands Police detective inspector Colin Mattinson lamented that even in the present day Britain people were abused for slave labour terming this as an “uncomfortable truth.”
He was reported saying: “We recognise the issue and are working with partner agencies to go after offenders and safeguard vulnerable people. Many are being paid a pittance and made to work and live in appalling conditions, while gang masters profit from their misery.
“We have several complex cases on-going into suspected trafficking and slavery gangs − and we’ve secured court orders against suspects that place strict conditions on their business dealings that are designed to protect vulnerable people at risk of exploitation.”
Mattinson sought to raise the public’s awareness to modern day slavery, terming it as “largely hidden crime.”
He said: “Today’s operation [May 23] was largely in response to concerns raised by members of the public − we take information passed to us seriously and will take decisive action if we believe people are being exploited.”
Records at West Midlands Police show that slavery offences have increased from slightly over 100 in the previous 12 months to 208 in the past year.
Between 2011 and 2016, a total of 4,314 persons – modern day slavery victims have been reportedly supported by The Salvation Army. The charity supported 1,097 potential victims in 2015 and up to 1,400 potential victims last year.