On Friday, the Indian High Commission made an appeal to Indian students, urging them to reach out for assistance and counseling due to concerns that over 50 of them may have fallen victim to modern slavery while employed at care homes in North Wales managed by five individuals of Indian descent.
The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), a UK government intelligence and investigative agency for labour exploitation, reported earlier this week that it had succeeded in getting a court order against five individuals for labour abuse.
Also Read: UK review warns against anti-India rhetoric over Kashmir, pro-Khalistan extremism
The GLAA said it has identified “more than 50 Indian students as being potential victims of modern slavery and labour abuse over the last 14 months” in relation to the case.
We were concerned to read this news. Indian students who have suffered this, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will provide help/counselling. We assure you of confidentiality in our response, the High Commission tweeted.
We were concerned to read this news. Indian students who have suffered this, please contact us at email@example.com, and we will provide help/counselling. We assure you of confidentiality in our response.@VDoraiswami @MEAIndia @sujitjoyghosh https://t.co/Xgf39sRuYT
— India in the UK (@HCI_London) February 10, 2023
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 have been handed a Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order (STRO).
All five, originally from Kerala, were arrested by GLAA between December 2021 and May 2022 and while investigations remain ongoing, there have been no criminal charges brought against them at this stage.
Also Read: British PM Rishi Sunak joins UK-India NSA meeting
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.
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 were not being paid correctly or were having their wages withheld.
Significant concerns were raised at the same time about the workers appearance and that they always appeared to be hungry, the agency said.
Also Read: Britcoin? UK gets closer to launching a digital currency
Colleagues at the care homes where the Indian students were working reported that they looked tired” and were “smelling, and they saw them eating leftovers.
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 GLAAs 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 a series of stringent conditions on 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 that the order is being complied with.
Breaching the order is a criminal offence, carrying 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 a serious crime
Under UK and international law, modern slavery is seen as a serious crime where victims are exploited, controlled or held captive, and threatened or punished to stop them from escaping or reporting the crime.
According to British police, modern slavery includes human trafficking when victims are taken between countries or around a country so they can be exploited.