The hidden costs of recycling in Britain has been revealed after around a dozen Polish men were discovered by police living in slave-like conditions and paid paltry sums to sort rubbish for 12 hours a day.
Officers in the West Midlands raided two recycling businesses as part of an investigation into modern slavery in Britain.
Six Polish men were discovered at Black Country Recycling in Oldbury and CAP Recycling in West Bromwich; three were found living in a flat and two more men in a van outside a suspect’s house in West Bromwich.
The men who are all receiving support from charity the Red Cross, show signs of malnutrition and alcohol dependency, while it’s believed one man was forced to work with a broken shoulder.
Three men, aged 52,26 and 47 have been arrested on suspicion of slavery offenses.
“We’ve found evidence suggesting some of these men were sleeping at one of the recycling units and bedding down on waste cardboard,” Inspector Colin Mattison of West Midlands Police said.
“It’s believed the men taking advantage of these people — and playing on their vulnerabilities by plying them with alcohol — were living luxury lifestyles and driving around in high-value cars,” he added.
Inspector Mattison reiterated calls for the public to be on the lookout for modern slavery in their community.
“Things like large numbers of people staying in multi-occupancy houses and people being ferried to and from the address on vans or minibuses early in the morning and retuning late at night.
“Cruel individuals are making large sums of money on the back of others’ misery,” Inspector Colin Mattison added.
Local counselor for the area, Preet Gill joined calls for more people to report suspicious behavior, “modern slavery may be a hidden crime — but it’s a real concern,” he said.
Kevin Hyland, the UK’s first dedicated anti-slavery commissioner has said that the trafficking of Nigerian women and girls is “now at crisis level.”
“Modern slavery and human trafficking are gross injustices on modern society. With an estimated 13,000 enslaved in the UK, 45 million around the world, there is much to be done.”
Hyland says source countries like Nigeria must remain at the top of the agenda for the authorities in Britain.
“We need to play these perpetrators at their own game; whether at source, in transit, or at destination, we must win the race to reach the vulnerable so that we can protect men, women and children from the evil of slavery.”
The UK’s anti-slavery commissioner recently attended the United Nations summit in New York, where Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May urged other countries to join the UK and develop a national response to the problem, along with pledging US$6.5 million support for anti-trafficking efforts in Nigeria.
Mrs. May argued for a “coordinated effort to eradicate modern slavery,” from “like-minded countries, priority countries and key practitioners.”
Small businesses in the UK are being encouraged to sign up to a voluntary database to help eradicate modern slavery from supply chains.
As part of UK law, all companies in the UK with a global turnover of more than US $47.3 million or more must publish annual statements, declaring the steps they are taking to tackle any issues of modern slavery in their supply chain — or in their own organization.
Following the latest arrests at waste depot in the West Midlands, in Britain it seems, modern slavery can be as close to home as the items you discard to be recycled.
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