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Migrant workers in the UK are held as slaves, says cleric

By a staff reporter

A CHURCH in Lincoln has helped six people to escape from contemporary slavery in the past few months, as part of its project working with the homeless and marginalised.

The Revd Jeremy Cullimore, who runs the Be-Attitude project in St Mary-le-Wigford, in central Lincoln, says that slave gangs are active in Lincolnshire, where migrant workers are employed in farms, and food-processing and packaging factories. Not all those he has helped out of slavery are overseas migrants, he says. Some are British.

Three women were freed last week from a house in Lambeth, where they allege that they were held as slaves for 30 years by a couple with former Maoists links. The three women have been identified by the Metropolitan Police as a 30-year-old Briton, a 57-year-old Irish woman, and a 69-year-old Malaysian.

PA

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Urban slavery: building in Lambeth where three slaves were allegedly held

 

Credit: PA

Urban slavery: building in Lambeth where three slaves were allegedly held

 

Mr Cullimore said that, while he was appalled at the case in London, he was not surprised. "We have given sanctuary to six people who have escaped from modern-day slavery in the last 12 months," he said. "Many of those who come to us are migrant workers who are induced into signing up with agencies in their own countries, in the belief that they are headed for a wonderful life and good job opportunities.

"They arrive saddled with a debt incurred through various 'fees', and, of course, their travel costs. Their passports are taken as 'security' for their debt, and while they are given all sorts of menial work, the costs of their very sub-standard accommodation, and travel, mean that they remain in debt, and are threatened that, if they misbehave, they will be taken away by the authorities and sent home.

"In one extreme case, a young man was 'sold on' to a criminal gang and forcibly given heroin to ensure they had complete control of him. One of his many jobs for them was to drive the lorry when they stole lead from church roofs. He escaped to us; but was in a dreadful state, and tried to commit suicide by jumping off the roof while in hospital. He is now a paraplegic, but we continue to support him."

Mr Cullimore, who works with paid staff and volunteers, reopened the closed church of St Mary-le-Wigford in 2008 to run the project, which helps about 175 people a week. It is open to everyone, and offers breakfasts and evening meals as well as advice. He has faced violence and threats from customers and gangmasters for his work in helping people escape.

The Home Office minister James Brokenshire said this week that he expects the number of reported cases involving domestic slaves to continue to increase.

A new index of global slavery has been published, estimating how many people live in slavery in each country today. It estimates that up to 4600 people are enslaved in the UK. In Mauritania, up to 160,000 people are said to be in slavery; in Haiti, there are up to 220,000. The index has been produced by the Walk Free Foundation.

www.walkfreefoundation.org

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