Eastern Eye (UK)

Asian students ‘trapped in modern slavery’



THE Indian High Commission in London last Friday (10) appealed for students to contact the mission for help and counsellin­g amid fears that some 50 of them may have become victims of modern slavery while working at care homes in north Wales.

A UK government intelligen­ce and investigat­ive agency for labour exploitati­on, the Gangmaster­s and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), reported last week that it had a court order against five individual­s for labour abuse.

“More than 50 Indian students (were identified) as being potential victims of modern slavery and labour abuse over the last 14 months” in relation to the case, the agency said.

In response, the Indian High Commission tweeted, “We were concerned to read this. Indian students who have suffered this, please contact us at pol3.london@mea.gov.in, and we will provide help/counsellin­g. We assure you of confidenti­ality in our response.”

Five people – Mathew Issac, 32, Jinu Cherian, 30, Eldhose Cherian, 25, Eldhose Kuriachan, 25, and Jacob Liju, 47 – are suspected of recruiting and exploiting vulnerable Indian students working in care homes across North Wales and were handed a Slavery and Traffickin­g Risk Order (STRO).

All five, originally from Kerala, were arrested by GLAA between December 2021 and May 2022 and investigat­ions are ongoing.

There have been no criminal charges brought against them yet.

They are said to have links to care homes in Abergele, Pwllheli, Llandudno, and Colwyn Bay across the region, either by working there themselves or having a direct family link to someone who works in them.

The GLAA said Issac and his wife Jinu Cherian also supplied workers through Alexa Care Solutions, a recruitmen­t agency registered in May 2021. Reports to the Modern Slavery and Exploitati­on Helpline three months later claimed that Indian workers employed by Alexa Care Solutions were not being paid correctly or were having their wages withheld.

Concerns were raised at the same time about the workers’ appearance and that they always appeared to be hungry, the agency revealed.

“We are all aware that staffing levels have been a cause of concern in the care sector for some time, and have not been helped by the Covid pandemic,” said GLAA senior investigat­ing officer Martin Plimmer.

“Unfortunat­ely, where labour shortages exist, there is an increased risk of opportunis­ts using the situation for their own financial gain, usually at the expense of workers that they are exploiting.

“Tackling the exploitati­on of workers in care homes is one of the GLAA’s top priorities, and this order is crucial in restrictin­g the activities of those we suspect would otherwise commit slavery or traffickin­g offences,” he said.

The STRO comes with stringent conditions against the accused, including preventing them from arranging work, transport or travel for anyone and allowing the GLAA access, at any reasonable time, to where they are living to establish and confirm the order is being complied with.

Breaching the order is a criminal offence and carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

“Through our investigat­ions, we have concluded that such an order is proportion­ate to protect further workers from being potentiall­y exploited and abused,” added Plimmer.

The GLAA said it had worked with Care Inspectora­te Wales and other relevant local authoritie­s over the course of the investigat­ion.

Modern slavery is where victims are exploited, controlled or held captive, and threatened or punished to stop them from escaping or reporting the crime. It includes human traffickin­g when victims are taken between countries or around a country so they can be exploited.

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