Estimated 100,000 Slaves Working Across UK, 10,000 in Coronavirus City of Leicester: Reports

An Indian labourer sews patterns at the April Cornell clothing factory in Noida on the outskirts of New Delhi on October 16, 2012. The April Cornell company exports 50 percent of their clothing and linen production to the USA and Canada, and the rest to European Union countries. India's industrial …
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

A report by the think tank the Centre for Social Justice and the anti-slavery charity Justice and Care says that nearly 100,000 slaves are working across Britain, around ten times more than 2017 government estimates.

The report, It Still Happens Here published on Sunday, used artificial intelligence to analyse the crime and intelligence reports across six towns and cities in the West Midlands to estimate some 4,197 victims of slavery in one year. Extrapolated for the entire United Kingdom, the think tank came to the figure of 99,469, which does not count the victims who have not appeared in police databases. The government had estimated in 2017 that around 10,000 to 13,000 slaves were operating in the UK.

The slavery is being coordinated by “ruthless criminal networks” and ranges from hard labour, crime, domestic servitude, to prostitution, with children also being trafficked for exploitation. Gangsters are said to be working in conjunction with people traffickers to bring in and exploit illegal immigrants, including those from the Middle East, who along with Eastern Europeans, are being subjugated to “debt bondage”, where their expenses for passage and board are considered a debt to be paid off before release from servitude.

“Human traffickers and Organised Crime Groups are running riot in too many communities. Very few face prosecution relative to the number of victims found and even fewer are convicted. As the number of victims discovered has skyrocketed in the last five years, convictions have barely increased,” the report found.

It Still Happens Here also said that people from more than 130 countries around the world had been trafficked to the UK for slavery; “however, in the last three years the UK has been the top country of origin of suspected slavery victims.”

A “growing number of British citizens suffer trafficking and exploitation alongside so many victims from abroad”, the Modern Slavery Policy Unit said, including homeless people.  Breitbart London reported last month that takeaway restaurant boss Hargit Singh Bariana had been jailed for targeting and enslaving homeless, mostly British, white men in the towns of Blyth and Sunderland. Bariana had forced the men to work 13 hours a day and confiscated their government support benefits.

The report comes amidst claims that as many as 10,000 slaves are working in the multicultural city of Leicester, alone.

Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire Andrew Bridgen told Sky News on Monday that a “conspiracy of silence” has allowed factory owners to continue to employ staff working far less than the legal minimum wage in unsafe conditions in sweatshops.

“You’ve got a systemic failure of all the protections in Leicester that would prevent this from happening.

“I’ve estimated it’s around 10,000 individuals who are effectively in modern slavery providing garments for internet retailers,” Mr Bridgen told the broadcaster.

Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe said that she had been contacted by many workers who are too frightened to come out publicly because they are in the country illegally. The Labour MP said she had been told that some machinists are being paid £3 an hour, packers just £2.

Slave labour in Leicester’s garment sweatshops has been a known issue since at least January when Mr Bridgen raised a question on the problem in Parliament.

However, Leicester becoming the first city to go back under lockdown following a spike in new COVID-19 cases has drawn more considerable attention to the widespread illegal working practices amongst the town’s some 1,500 textile factories. Local lawmakers have blamed the new wave of outbreaks on the fact that many youths do not speak English and are unable to understand medical guidance. Ethnic minority households having a higher prevalence of multigenerational occupants, increasing the risk of passing the contagion to more vulnerable and elderly members of families, has also been blamed.

Mr Bridgen had, however, suggested that the spike was due to factories remaining open during the lockdown when they should have been shut, with little or no social distancing being observed. The National Crime Agency later announced an investigation into slavery in the city.

An open secret, reports claim that police were aware of the illegal working practices but were too frightened to intervene for fear of appearing racist. A similar politically correct anxiety prevented police from investigating Pakistani Muslim-origin grooming gangs which systematically exploited and raped mostly white, working-class girls in cities like Rotherham and Manchester.

“This scandal has been hiding in plain sight, and there are concerns cultural sensibilities could be in part to blame for why these appalling working practices haven’t been properly investigated,” a source close to Home Secretary Priti Patel had said. Her comments were subsequently criticised by local Labour MP Webbe who said it was more down to “the failure of the government to protect mainly women from migrant communities” by not giving enough money to local authorities and the Health and Safety Executive.

While a leader for Leicester’s Sikh community Raj Mann said that “within the Asian community people generally turn a blind eye to workers in the community who are on less than the minimum wage”. Mr Mann also said that textile factory owners would share intelligence ahead of inspections or police raids, as well as details on “cheap workers”.


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