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Arrests over modern slavery claims

Katie Coyne24/10/2018 - 19:32

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Modern slavery arrests made linked to car washes
Modern slavery arrests made linked to car washes

Three men have been charged with modern slavery offences linked to car washes following an investigation by the North Cumbria police.

The men have been charged with conspiracy to commit offences of modern slavery, human trafficking and money laundering. They are due to appear at North Cumbria Magistrates Court on 20 November.

The offences date back to 2016 and 2017 and involve a number of car washes in North Cumbria including Shiny Car Wash on Warwick Road, Carlisle, Shiny Car Wash in Penrith and Auto Clean Car Wash on King Street in Carlisle.  

The arrests follow a session at the Home Affairs select committee that heard from experts helping to raise awareness and tackle modern slavery and human trafficking.

The committee heard from former independent anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, who criticised the government’s approach saying there was a ‘lack of professionalism’ with an approach of ‘makes it up as it goes along’.

Hyland told the committee about a child trafficked to the UK aged three and then sexually abused for decades. They were identified as a victim but also told that their status in the UK was not legal.

Hyland was the UK’s first ever independent anti slavery commissioner but resigned in May. When MPs asked him why he quit he told them it was due to government interfering in his job.

Hyland also complained of a lack of joined up thinking between the agencies involved and the local police force where trafficking occurs. He cited a case of a child being trafficked to the South of England, which ended up being reported to the National Referral Mechanism, which identifies victims of trafficking, but not to the police.

The week  before, a House of Commons a debate looked into how to end exploitation of labour in the supply chains of UK supermarkets.

Labour MP for Bristol East, Kerry McCarthy led the debate citing research from the International Labour Organisation’s estimate that there are more than 1.1m victims of slavery working in the agricultural sector.

McCarthy also referred to Oxfam’s research, which has found, ‘a direct correlation between drops in the prices paid by the supermarkets to suppliers and the risk of ​increasing human rights violations in supply chains. This is basically propelling a race to the bottom on wages and rights’.

The Environmental Justice Foundation has found horrific conditions and abuse in th Thai seafood sector with 59 percent of fishing workers having witnessed the murder of a fellow worker.

McCarthy urged the government to act and said: ‘The government could be incredibly powerful if their procurement policies made it clear that they would not source from companies that could not give ane assurance that there was no slavery in their supply chain.’

The Environment Agency is giving its enforcement officers extra training with the charity Hope for Justice on how to help identify instances of modern slavery.

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