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12 suspected slavery victims found at Coventry restaurant

Two people have been arrested as part of an investigation into the exploitation of Eastern European workers for cheap labour.

Officers carried out raids at three restaurants across the region after acting on information which suggested staff were being brought into the UK and paid a pittance.

Modern slavery warrants were executed simultaneously at Ming Moon, Stafford Road, Wolverhampton; Wing Wah, Fletchamstead Highway, Coventry and Red Leaf, High Street, West Bromwich at 8am this morning (Tuesday 22 August). An associated address in Handsworth was also raided.

A total of 20 men, mainly from Slovakia and Romania, were discovered and living in poor conditions. 

They have been safeguarded and taken to a reception centre where they will be given an opportunity to speak to specially trained officers.

A 49-year-old man and woman aged 45, both Slovakian, have been arrested on suspicion of slavery offences by providing staff through a recruitment consultancy. Further investigations are being carried out.

Chief Inspector Sally Simpson, from West Midlands Police's public protection unit, said: "Unfortunately we hear all too often of cruel individuals making large sums of money on the back of the misery of others.

"These ‘gang masters’ promise a job, accommodation and money; but people end up working long hours, living in poor conditions and being paid next to nothing. 

"This is the 21st century and we are committed to tackling people trafficking and modern slavery. We are continually looking to raise awareness of what is still a hidden crime. 

"We need the public to help us stop such exploitation and report anything suspicious; which can help us take firm and decisive action such as this operation today.

"There are some tell-tale signs to look out for such as large groups staying in multi-occupancy houses and being transported to and from addresses in vans or minibuses from early in the morning and not coming back until late at night.”

Today's operation saw the force work alongside a variety of partner agencies including the Red Cross, HMRC, Hope for Justice, Gang Masters Licencing Abuse Authority and the National Crime Agency.

The safeguarded men will have the option of supporting a criminal complaint and referred through the National Referral Mechanism. 

Anyone identified as a victim is helped into alternative accommodation in partnership with the Salvation Army.

Of the suspected slavery victims today there were 12 found at the premises in Coventry, five in Wolverhampton and three from Anthrobus Road in Handsworth.

Between May 2016 and April 2017 West Midlands Police recorded 208 slavery offences, up from just over 100 in the previous year – with more than 40 people arrested on suspicion of slavery offences.

Anybody who suspects slavery or trafficking offences are happening in their community is urged to call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700, visit the website www.modernslaveryhelpline.org or call West Midlands Police on 101.

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