A group of 40 Romanians, including women and children, have been found crammed into a three bedroomed house in Dudley. Another 10 were found in a nearby property. Three people are being questioned on suspicion of running the suspected slave house.
The residents included eight women and six children, the youngest just 18 months old. Along with the men in the house, all were sleeping on dirty mattresses crammed into spare corners, including in the kitchen and bathroom, the Times has reported.
The attic was being used as a makeshift larder to store food; the garden was full of rubbish and detritus, including old furniture and toys; while under the stairs fire and rescue teams found unsafe electric wiring.
They were found when officers from the National Crime Agency and West Midlands police raided the privately owned terraced property on Monday after a tip-off. The women and children have since been rehoused by the local authorities, but the men refused similar offers.
A 23-year-old man has been questioned by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, suspected of pocketing wages earned by the adults living at the two houses. Documents linking the Romanians to a farm in Worcestershire were also seized at the property. Inquiries continue.
Detective Chief Inspector Tom Chisholm, West Midlands police’s lead officer on slavery, said: “Most of the cases we encounter are eastern European men subjected to forced labour in construction or agriculture. We have a steady stream of people turning up at police stations, some displaying injuries, reporting to have escaped slave-masters or been dumped in the street when work dries up.”
He said they were most likely tempted to the UK with offers of generous salaries, agreeing to hand over part of their earnings for accommodation, transport and living expenses.
“On the face of it, the deal sounds fair, but on arrival here they are sent to work, paid far less than promised, charged exorbitant rents and threatened with violence if they protest or try to leave,” said Mr Chisholm. “Traffickers also withhold migrants’ passports and manage bank accounts in their names to siphon off money and max out credit cards.
“They are effectively imprisoned in the addresses. We’ve also heard from complainants saying they were ‘fined’ thousands of pounds if they lost their job and so become indebted to the traffickers.”
People traffickers who entice migrants with such deals now face life sentences if found guilty, thanks to the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which came into effect this summer.