Police investigate food factory ‘slave labour’ claims

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Police are investigating claims of slave labour at a food factory in Birmingham
Police are investigating claims of slave labour at a food factory in Birmingham

Related tags: Slavery, Human trafficking

About 70 people suspected of being abused for slave labour at a Birmingham food factory have been safeguarded by West Midlands Police, after a raid yesterday (May 23).

Police swooped at Star Frozen Foods Ltd in Tyseley, as police intelligence suggested people were working in sub-standard conditions and being paid well below the minimum wage.

Officers questioned five people believed to be part of the management team at the factory. A search of the site was carried out, as well as at two residential properties nearby.

The people safeguarded − understood to include Pakistani-British nationals, Lithuanians and Latvians − will have the option of lodging a criminal complaint. 

The operation was carried out in co-operation with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Home Office Immigration, the Food Standards Agency, West Midlands Fire Service, The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the National Crime Agency.

Arrested on suspicion of slavery offences

The raid was the latest in a series of West Midlands Police operations, which has seen more than 40 people arrested on suspicion of slavery offences in the past 12 months.

FoodManufacture.co.uk has contacted Star Frozen Foods for a response to the allegations.

West Midlands Police detective inspector Colin Mattinson said it was an “uncomfortable truth”​ that people were abused for slave labour in modern day Britain.

“We recognise the issue and are working with partner agencies to go after offenders and safeguard vulnerable people. Many are being paid a pittance and made to work and live in appalling conditions, while gang masters profit from their misery.

“We have several complex cases on-going into suspected trafficking and slavery gangs − and we’ve secured court orders against suspects that place strict conditions on their business dealings that are designed to protect vulnerable people at risk of exploitation.”

‘Largely hidden crime’

Mattinson described modern day slavery as a “largely hidden crime” ​and wanted to raise the public’s awareness to it.

“Today’s operation ​[May 23] was largely in response to concerns raised by members of the public − we take information passed to us seriously and will take decisive action if we believe people are being exploited.”

West Midlands Police has recorded 208 slavery offences in the past year, up from just over 100 in the previous 12 months.

The Salvation Army has supported a total of 4,314 people who were victims of modern day slavery between 2011 and 2016. Up to 1,400 potential victims were supported by the charity last year, up from 1,097 in 2015.

Related topics: People & Skills, Frozen

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