Slavery is not an issue confined to history, or an issue that exists only in certain countries. It is a global problem that is still happening today, and the UK is no exception.
In 2017, there were 5,145 recorded victims of modern slavery in the UK. This number counts only for those that were encountered, who then testified. This, coupled with slavery’s hidden nature means that actual numbers are far higher.
* Scientific Adviser for the Home Office Prof. Bernard Silverman, estimated there to be 13,000 slaves in the UK today. This estimation is referred to as the dark figure*.
Modern slavery and human trafficking transcends age, gender and ethnicities, and spans across industries such as agriculture, health care and the sex trade, to name a few. Although it may be difficult to determine what problems exist where, it is certain that modern slavery exists everywhere.
This is the dedicated website for an ongoing project that documents neighbourhoods where victims have been identified as modern-day slaves.
The project has been created using medium-format film, by documentary photographer Amy Romer, who has also written the accompanying stories through her own investigations using press materials. The Dark Figure* has been used by the UK Home Office, the British Police, and has seen national exposure, helping to raise awareness of modern slavery in the UK. The project has been made into a 64-page fold-out newspaper exhibition, and is soon to be published as a photobook. (More details to come!)
For more information about The Dark Figure*, listen to Amy’s guest appearance on Multimedia Week, hosted by Sharron Lovell, David Campany and DJ Clark, or read her recent interview for Pete Brooke’s Prison Photography.
***Three new stories added: visit London, Lincolnshire and Shirebrook for new stories***
The Dark Figure*
When Elvira’s husband became very sick and couldn’t work, she used an employment agency to find work abroad. She was sent to Qatar, but the family paid her less than agreed in her contract and refused to give her any days rest. They told her the contract was only a piece of paper and didn’t mean anything.
After one year in Qatar, her employers promised she could go home to see her family if first, she went to work for one of their sisters, who lived in London. They flew with her to London, ensuring any questions at immigration could be answered without causing suspicion.
Elvira was taken to a flat near Harrods in central London. She was made to work long days, without rest, sleeping on the floor by her employer, who would call her a “dog” in Arabic. She was given only a piece of bread and a cup of tea each day, and was never allowed outside, except with her employer. Elvira was unable to run away because she had her passport taken from her.
Elvira used a phone to connect to Facebook. A friend referred her to a federation of Filipino workers in London. One morning when her employer was napping, she took the phone, found the keys to the front door and ran outside. She hid at a nearby church and phoned the federation.
Elvira is waiting for her case to go to trial.
61-year-old Emmanuel Edet and his wife, 58-year-old Antan Edet were arrested by London police in their home in Perivale, North West London, after their “houseboy” Ofonime Sunday Inuk heard a radio report about modern slavery, and called a charity asking for their help.
Emmanuel Edet, a former NHS obstetrician and Antan Edet, a senior midwife, trafficked Inuk, an orphan from Nigeria in 1989, telling immigration officials he was their teenage son.
For 24 years Inuk worked unpaid for up to 17 hours per day looking after the couple’s two sons and performing domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning and gardening. He was made to sleep on the floor of the hallway. After confiscating his passport, the couple told Inuk if he were to leave the house he would be deported as an illegal immigrant.
In November 2015, The Edet’s were found guilty of child cruelty, servitude and for the assistance of unlawful immigration. Each have been sentenced to six years.
Although the mistreatment of Inuk spanned 24 years, servitude only became an offence under the Coroners and Justice Act in 2009, so their conviction and sentencing for servitude can only count for injustices from 2010 to 2013.
Metropolitan Police from the Human Trafficking Unit arrested 73-year-old Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife, 67-year-old Chanda Pattni at their residential address in Brixton in South London. They were investigated for slavery and domestic servitude.
Three women had been rescued from the same residence in October 2013 having been held against their will for more than 30 years. Aishah Wahab, a 69-year-old Malaysian woman and Josephine Herivel, a 57-year-old Irish woman met the male suspect, also known as “Comrade Bala” in London through a shared political ideology, as he was the former Maoist leader of the Workers’ Institute of Marxism–Leninism–Mao Zedong Thought. Rosie Davies, a 30 year old British woman is thought to have spent her whole life in servitude under Balakrishnan.
The women were not physically restrained, but held by subjection to brainwashing, emotional abuse and physical abuse. Police were tipped off from a charity supporting victims of forced marriage. The charity had received a phone call from the women who had been watching the ITV documentary Forced To Marry.
In December 2015, Balakrishnan was convicted of child cruelty, false imprisonment, four counts of rape, six counts of indecent assault and two counts of assault. Chanda Pattni, was released earlier in 2014, as there was considered to be insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.
Balakrishnan was sentenced to 23-years imprisonment in January 2016.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields is home to two of the largest and most popular soup kitchens in London, and is also a well known trafficking hub.
Christian: Guys came round, old gypsy guys. They said, ‘Do you want a job? Can you do a bit of labouring?’ I said, ‘How much are you going to pay?’ ‘We’ll pay you when the job’s finished.’ We drive down to this remote place and there’s a shed. He said to me, ‘You’re going to sleep in that shed.’
The traffickers will often wear high-vis jackets and will arrive in vans or cars, aware that homeless and unemployed people will congregate at certain areas at certain times. This provides them the opportunity to make a selection based on who looks most vulnerable. Alcoholics are commonly targeted and are provided with alcohol and cigarettes in exchange for a ride, with no information as to where they are going or why.
Nigel: They fed me, that was it. That was the only thing they did do, you know what I mean? They said the money would be there at the weekend. I went, ‘Make sure my money’s there, you know what I mean?’ I said, ‘I just want my money. I work hard, I just want my money, that’s all I want.’ Come Friday, I fronted them, they surrounded me – ‘Just get back in your caravan.’ They threatened me. They said, ‘Go back in your caravan or we’ll dust you up,’ they said. It was a bit terrifying, wasn’t it, you know what I mean? I mean you don’t want to beat twenty people. They’re nasty people, they’re just nasty people.
Men from 18 to 60 have been targeted from this area and are largely exploited in the block paving and tarmacking industry as well as areas such as agriculture, food processing and factory work.
Transcript: Street Slaves, File on 4, BBC Radio 4.
3 Lithuanians working for D.J. Houghton Catching Services in Kent, visited a nearby Citizens Advice Bureau to ask for help after experiencing severe mistreatment from their employers, a local couple from Maidstone, Darrell Houghton and Jacqueline Judge.
The couple supplied chicken catchers to hundreds of poultry farms across the UK, including many of the largest factory farms producing eggs for leading supermarkets and high street fast-food chains.
A chicken catcher can catch up to 6000 birds an hour on farms that house more than 1 million birds and work is usually carried out in the dark overnight, to keep the birds as calm as possible. Legal limits restrict how long birds are allowed to be kept in crates awaiting slaughter, so nearly all farms today use agency labour, and will order workers at short notice. The Houghton’s would send their workers as far as Penzance, unpaid, sometimes for only 2 hours work in unsanitary conditions without sufficient personal protective equipment or clothing. Toilet break requests were denied and their destination was always unknown. No food or drink was ever provided.
The Houghton’s advertised their jobs online and used a Lithuanian associate to arrange for the men’s travel to the UK. They promised good wages and accommodation, but were immediately debt-bonded on arrival. They were told that once in the UK they were to pay an illegal £350 “work-finding fee”, which was deducted from their wages, along with £40 or £50 rent per week. The accommodation they provided was overcrowded and dirty. They did not have a bed, a shower, or adequate food for days at a time. They were subjected to intimidation and abuse, all the while being severely underpaid. The men were also denied their wages for reasons such as leaving a mug unwashed in the kitchen sink, or if they were seen out on their nights off.
2015. Of the 6 men working for the Houghton’s between 2008 and 2012, 3 have been officially recognised as victims of trafficking for labour exploitation. The Houghton’s were arrested but not charged. They told local media that they were blameless and that the allegations are untrue. The Houghton’s did admit to paying a Lithuanian national to find workers for their chicken catching business.
December 2016. A Lithuanian man is arrested by the Klaipeda County Police in Lithuania for human trafficking. It is suspected that the 53-year-old gained up to £90,000 in 3 years by trafficking his own country-men.
In a new legal landmark, 6 survivors have sued the company and its directors in the high court for damages. The survivors won the settlement, worth more than 1 million pounds in compensation for unpaid wages, distress, personal injury and consequential losses. It is the first such case of a UK company being sued for modern slavery related offences.
Ten other claimants are now expected to bring similar cases against D.J. Houghton’s.
A 23-year-old man from Bournemouth was arrested in connection with slavery offences after Dorset Police raided a local Garage on Ringwood Road, Bournemouth. 6 victims, aged between 20 and 30, were found on site.
Residents from Ringwood Road told local journalists they had seen mini buses of different men come and go from the garage, so reported their concerns to the police.
The-23-year-old was later released without charge. A police spokesperson said that, following “extensive interviews with the men working there and consultation with other agencies, it was ascertained that the offence of slavery had not taken place.” However, the working regime in operation at the garage has continued to be investigated.
53-year-old Jurate Grigelyte of Easton, Bristol was sentenced to 3 years in prison after admitting to 10 charges of facilitating entry into the UK with a view to exploiting labour, 10 charges of human trafficking and one count of forced labour.
Grigelyte trafficked Lithuanian nationals to the UK with the promise of good employment and accommodation, but the workers, many of whom spoke little or no English, were forced to live in cramped and squalid conditions in properties around Bristol where she would lock them inside, only allowing them to enter and leave through a window.
The victims worked illegally for Grigelyte’s charity bag business collecting donations from people and sorting through clothing. They were transported around the South West in vans with no seats or windows. A typical working day lasted from 5am to 6pm. Grigelyte promised workers £25 per day, but would deduct money for rent, travel and various fines, often leaving workers debt-bonded, with no money for food.
Police arrested Grigelyte in November 2014 after a school raised concerns about the welfare of a six-year-old boy, who was the son of one of the victims.
Police in Bristol raided a residential property on Ash Road, Horfield, after neighbours complained of what smelt like a strong smell of chest-rub coming from the property next door. Three Vietnamese “gardeners” were found locked inside the property along with 900 cannabis plants in what was described by police as “an extremely professional set-up.” The three men spoke no English and were arrested at the scene.
Six months later the men were found guilty of producing a class C drug with conspiracy to distribute.
Their employers remain unknown.
Cannabis cultivation is the second most common form of criminal exploitation. Victims and are most often from Vietnam, 81% of which are children.
Victims of criminal exploitation are too often mistaken as the criminals themselves, making the business even more attractive to behind-the-scenes gangmasters. Victims speak no English, hold no identification and so cannot easily defend themselves.
Police in Bristol raided a disused NatWest bank and seized its largest ever haul of cannabis plants, worth one million pounds. Two Vietnamese “gardeners” were found hiding in the plants and were arrested at the premises.
28-year-old Trung Vu and 30-year-old Hoang Dang had been living secretly in a cupboard beneath the stairs and were not allowed to leave the building. Detailed instructions had been left by their employers that described how they were to tend to 2,028 cannabis plants spread across 10 rooms and 4 stories of the disused building.
Trung Vu pleaded guilty to producing cannabis and abstracting electricity and was jailed for four years and six months. Hoang Dang admitted producing cannabis and was jailed for two years and nine months.
The employers of the two men remain unknown.
Eight men were arrested on suspicion of trafficking persons into the UK for the purpose of labour exploitation during dawn raids at five properties across three neighbourhoods in Plymouth, Devon, as part of Operation Triage. Eight victims were recovered along with thirteen children, all of whom were believed to be linked to the suspects.
The investigation was launched after one of the victims walked into the local police station in March 2014 to report his position of exploitation. He told police that he and others had been forced to provide labour for little or no money, having been trafficked into the country by an organised crime gang. All men were Czech nationals and were forced to work at various locations including carwashes in Plymouth, factories in Cornwall and as domestic servants for the gang. The men were made to sleep either on the floor or in a garage, urinate in bottles and eat outside.
Following the arrests, only two victims were willing to come forward and tell their stories to the police. This is common in cases of modern-day slavery. Victims are often scared of authority and have been conditioned not to speak by their gangmasters. Without witness evidence, traffickers and gangmasters are released through lack of sufficient evidence, and victims will often return to their gangmasters through fear or lack of an alternative.
Four women of the same family of those arrested, forced key prosecution witness Josef Bukovinsky to retract his original statement during trial, saying he was “under the influence of psychotropic substances, such as Pervitin and other substances, which had such an impact on my mind that I was unable to concentrate and make a statement based on the truth.” He also spoke of the corrupt practices of his investigating officers and of his interpreter.
Such irregularly in a key witness’s statement forced the investigation to broaden and become one of the largest and most complex of its kind. The 4 members of the defendants family also stood trial and were found guilty in the largest ever conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and derail a human slavery prosecution.
Of the 8 men arrested for trafficking persons into the UK for the purpose of labour exploitation, 5 were jailed for a total of more than 20 years.
Gloucestershire Police carried out warrants at three properties in Gloucestershire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire after a year long investigation, including a 5 month surveillance operation of the Connors family was triggered by the discovery of the remains of a body, which was found near the Connors family home in May 2008.
The body was that of Christopher Nicholls, who had been working for the Connors for 3 years and was reported missing by his parents in 2005. He was struck by a car in 2004.
19 vulnerable people were found living at Beggers Roost caravan park in Staverton living in squalid conditions and were subject to assault, theft of benefits and exploitation.
Survivor Mark Ovenden told Channel 4 he was heading to his local soup kitchen in Bournemouth when a white van pulled over ahead of him. The driver approached him and offered him a job near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire. He was taken to Beggers Roost and subjected to modern slavery for the next 2 years of his life.
Some of the rescued men had been kept at the Connors property for up to 30 years and having been institutionalised, did not recognise themselves as victims.
5 members of the Connors family stood trial and were charged with offences involving the serious mistreatment of people who, because of their personal circumstances, had little option but to remain with the Connors.
All 5 members of the Connors family were found guilty of the conspiracy to require a person to perform forced or compulsory labour between April 2010 and March 2011 and are facing a maximum sentence of 14 years.
33-year-old Darrell Simester from Kidderminster, Worcestershire, was picked up from the side of a duel-carriageway whilst hitchhiking in South Wales, and was subsequently taken to Cariad Farm in Peterstone, near Newport.
For the next 13 years, Darrell Simester lived in a rat infested shed and then a cold, squalid caravan on the property of David Daniel Doran, and was made to work sixteen hour days for no money with only a horse trough to wash in.
Darrell Simester would call his family twice a year, telling them he was working on the roads, often from withheld numbers and with voices in the background telling him what to say. In 2008, he made his last phone call. Darrell tried to escape but the Doran’s found him in Cardiff and told him if he tried to escape again, they would kill him.
Darrell Simester’s family found him at the Doran’s farm following a social media campaign. They barely recognised him in his malnourished, downtrodden state.
In October 2014, David Daniel Doran was jailed for 4 1/2 years after pleading guilty to forcing Darrell Simester to perform forced or compulsory labour.
20 people were arrested at 3 farm locations on Wentloog Avenue, Peterstone, for offences including forced labour and money laundering during a raid by more than 250 police officers.
13 victims aged between 23 and 56 were found in separate caravans at the same location including 2 British, 8 Polish and 3 Romanian. Victims were taken to safe-houses by local authorities.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person is a victim of human trafficking, they will be referred to the government’s National Referral Mechanism [NRM], which provides suspected victims of trafficking 45 days of support, in which time they must cooperate with the police to receive continued support. It is then up to the government to make a “Conclusive Decision” as to whether the individual in question is a victim of human trafficking.
If the individual is found to be a victim, they may be granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK for one year to allow them to co-operate fully in any police investigation and subsequent prosecution. If the referred person is confirmed not to be a victim of trafficking then it is likely they will be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency, the relevant police force or the UK Border Agency.
A search warrant was obtained by Lincolnshire Police to search a traveller site owned by the Rooney family in the rural village of Drisney Nook, Linconshire, where 18 victims were found between the ages of 18 and 63, living in squalid conditions.
The victims, who had lived in servitude at the site for up to 25 years were previously homeless, had learning difficulties or complex alcohol and drug issues. They were targeted and picked up by the Rooney’s from various locations across the UK, and taken to properties in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and London. The victims were provided with no running water or toilet facilities, and were controlled through threats of starvation and physical violence. One victim described how he was beaten with a shovel and left injured in a caravan for days, as punishment for returning a car with no petrol. Another victim was made to dig his own grave if he did not agree to a lifetime of servitude.
Nine members of the Rooney family were found guilty of modern slavery offences and were sentenced for a collective total of 85 years.
Hungarian police were contacted by a young woman after her friend had telephoned from the UK to say that she needed help.
Greater Manchester Police were contacted via Interpol and were given the address of Margit Biddel who was subsequently arrested under suspicion of trafficking and exploitation.
Biddel had encouraged a 22-year-old woman to travel to the UK for work. Once in the country, Biddel used psychological aggression to intimidate and control the victim, who was made to work as a prostitute in Piccadilly, Manchester.
The victim found herself isolated from anyone she knew, unable to speak English and in fear that she, or her family may be harmed if she contacted home.
Biddel would arrange the victim’s transport to Piccadilly where she earned up to £400 a night. The majority was taken off her by Biddel.
Biddel was found guilty of arranging and facilitating the travel of another person with a view to exploitation. She was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
Biddel was also given a slavery and trafficking order with a number of conditions to protect the public and prevent her from engaging in this type of criminality in the future.
A 36-year-old Latvian woman arrived in the UK with the belief that she would be given a job on a mushroom farm. Instead, she was taken to the house of Hanan Butt and Jekaterina Ostrovska in Slough, and was then moved to Birmingham where she was introduced to Mohammed Akmal, whom she later married in a false Islamic ceremony, witnessed by Rashid Ahmed.
The victim was moved to two addresses in Longsight, Manchester. In the first address, she existed in a small attic bedroom which was locked while Akmal’s family lived in the main house. The second address had metal grates over the windows and she was not allowed to use the telephone or leave the house without being supervised.
The victim was found after she managed to tear off a partial address from a piece of mail and rang her mother who then informed Interpol.
Mohammed Akmal and Rashid Ahmed were both found guilty of conspiracy to seek to remain leave in the UK by deception. Akmal was sentenced to one year and eight months, whilst Ahmed was sentenced to just nine months imprisonment.
Hanan Butt and Jekaterina Ostrovska both pleaded guilty to human trafficking for exploitation. Butt was sentenced to two years and eight months, whilst Ostrovska was sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment.
Two Hungarian women, aged 21 and 30, were rescued from a terrace property on Spa Road in Bolton after being trafficked one year previously by the Dardai family, also Hungarian, who enslaved the women, forcing them into prostitution.
Daniel Dardai, Ferenc Dardai, Ferenc Dardai Jr, and Melania Kiraly were arrested and subsequently charged for modern slavery offences.
Dardai Jr set up profiles for the two women on adult websites. When clients called, he and his father would tell the women what to say. The victims were forced to see up to five clients a day.
One of the women told the court that she was made to eat with separate cutlery so she would not pass on any infection. She was given only bread, butter and salami, sometimes only once a day.
The women were beaten daily by Dardai Jr and his mother. They were forced to hand over the money they made, which was around £150 a day. They were also told they could not leave until they had earned more money.
One of the victims said Dardai Jr had on occasions strangled her for not smiling enough for clients and she had fainted after one beating.
All family members pleaded guilty at Bolton Crown Court for sexual exploitation of the women. Dardai Sr, who claimed in court that he had been directed by his sons, was jailed for four years. His son, Daniel Ferenc was sentenced to 3 years in a young offenders institute. His brother Dardai Jr was sentenced to six years. Dardai Jr’s wife Kiraly was jailed for four years and four months plus an extra two months to run consecutively after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit a sham marriage.
Two men and one woman were arrested and subsequently charged for servitude after a dawn raid at the factory of wholesale chicken supplier Bolton Poultry Products.
Six workers were found and have been identified as possible victims of human trafficking and forced labour. It is suspected that the workers were living on the site. One man was found hiding inside a shipping container which contained makeshift beds made from tables, whilst another was found sleeping on top of concrete with bits of cardboard in a boiler room.
Charges were dropped against former director of Bolton Poultry Products, Ebrahim Dalal. His son and daughter-in-law Said Dalal and Anisha Dalal, both directors of Bolton Halal Chicken continue to face charges.
A male victim of human trafficking and modern slavery informed Nottinghamshire police of his trauma working for the sportswear retail giant, Sports Direct.
Erwin and Krysian Markowski, two brothers from Nottingham, had been recruiting vulnerable men in Poland, promising accommodation and a good wage, through the employment of a Polish spotter, whose sole job was to identify the most vulnerable seeming people. 18 men were identified as victims of trafficking, and have been described as having learning difficulties with a history of being raised in care homes, whilst others were orphans and appeared to have limited understanding.
The brothers paid for the men to travel to the UK, but when they arrived, their passports were taken from them. The men were verbally and physically threatened, and on occasion they were beaten, in order to ensure absolutely no contact to the outside world.
The brothers controlled their recruits’ bank accounts, keeping most of their wages for themselves, totaling £35,000 between 2015 and 2016. One man was promised a flat to live in, but was instead provided with a urine sodden mattress.
After pleading guilty to conspiracy to arrange travel with a view to exploitation and fraud by false representation, both Erwin and Krystian Markowski were sentenced to six years imprisonment for modern slavery offences.
Sports Direct was been named in 2 further court cases, prosecuting 3 criminal groups in total for modern slavery offences, through the recruitment of victims to the the Shirebook warehouse.
Dariusz Parczewski was convicted for forced labour and fraud, relying on slave labour by using victims’ identities to carry out nearly £1m in benefit fraud. He too used a spotter in Poland to traffic victims to the UK.
Police received a phone call from an 18-year-old man who stated he was being held in domestic servitude and was being forced to work.
Police attended the address and arrested Tomas Maslulis and Edmundas Zigmantas for offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Six further arrests at the same address also took place for organised crime related theft.
Maslusis was charged with kidnapping and false imprisonment with the intention of committing human trafficking and knowingly holding another person in slavery or servitude. Zigmantas was charged with knowingly holding another person in slavery or servitude.
Maslusis and Zigmantas have been remanded into custody and are due to appear before Tameside Magistrates Court.
Those arrested under suspicion of being involved in organised crime have been bailed until May 2016.
Four men were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to require another person to perform forced or compulsory labour and of conspiracy to commit trafficking offences after police raided a picture framing factory in Rochdale as part of Operation Retriever.
20 workers were discovered at the factory, 13 of which were from Slovakia and are all believed to be victims of forced labour and human trafficking. The remaining 7 are believed to have been legitimate workers, who were paid a legal wage. They’re country of origin remains undisclosed.
Of the 13 victims, it was confirmed that 10 were living in a small terrace house on King Street, Rochdale, in dangerous and squalid conditions. It’s alleged that the victims who lived there were paid £25 for an 80-hour week after deductions for rent and travel.
A number of local fishermen were called in by the coastguard to help with the rescue of 24 Chinese cockle pickers that were trapped by the sweeping tides. Within a few hours, 20 bodies had been recovered and only 1 man was found alive.
Morecambe Bay holds a 28-mile tide. Locals told the press that the disaster was avoidable had the cockle pickers known the geography of the area. Instead, they were unable to navigate a safe route off the cockle bed.
The workers had been imported unlawfully via shipping containers into Liverpool where they were hired out through local criminal agents of international Chinese Triads.
Rescues of large groups of stranded Chinese cockle pickers by Morecambe locals had already taken place in previous years, but rather than act as a warning to both gangmasters and authorities, the booming cockling trade meant the industry was heavily under-regulated, so workers could be easily exploited.
In May 2004, the 21st body was washed up.
Gangmaster Lin Liang Ren was found guilty of the manslaughter of at least 21 people, of breaking immigration laws and for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. He was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Ren’s girlfriend Zhao Xiao Qing and cousin Lin Mu Yong, were both found guilty of facilitating illegal immigration and for perverting the course of justice. They were sentenced to 7 ½ years between them.
Business owners of Liverpool Bay Fishing Company Ltd. David Anthony Eden senior and David Antony Eden junior, bought the gang’s cockles for far cheaper than local rates. Both were found not guilty for helping the workers break immigration law.
Authorities were alerted when a 20-year-old male trafficking victim contacted a charity, revealing he had been the victim of offences committed in 2011. More victims soon came forward, and others were identified.
West Yorkshire police launched Operation Tavernhouse and in May, convictions were made against Hungarian traffickers Janos Orsos and Ferenc Illes, who had been providing Kozee Sleep, a bed factory that supplied retailers including John Lewis, Dunelm and Next with Hungarian workers.
Company owner Mohammed Rafiq and two of his employees were charged with conspiracy to facilitate travel within the UK for exploitation. Rafiq is the first owner of a UK company to be charged with human trafficking offences.
Workers supplied to Kozee Sleep were forced to live with up to 42 men in a two-bedroom house on Batley Field Hill and were found to be surviving on small scraps of food. The men would work for up to 20 hours a day and were paid as little as £10 a week.
In May 2014, Janos Orsos pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic a person into the UK for exploitation, conspiracy to traffic a person within the UK for exploitation, blackmail and converting criminal property. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Ferenc Illes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic a person within the UK for exploitation. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
In January 2016, Mohammed Rafiq was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic and was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment. He had pleaded not guilty.
A 22-year-old Hungarian woman responded to an advert for a baby-sitter job in London and was offered the job during a telephone interview.
When she arrived in Budapest to travel to Britain, she was met by three men who threatened her and removed her phone, before driving her to Slovakia, where she was brought to Manchester by coach.
The woman was then sold to a Pakistani man for £3,500, who told her they were to marry.
She was held at addresses in Gorton, Longsight and Levenshulme, before being taken to Chorley, Lancashire, where she was able to alert police.
Bartolomej Sivak, the organiser of the operation pleaded guilty to trafficking and conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law and was jailed for 4 years and 2 months.
Rana Yousaf who assisted in the moving of the victim, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law and was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment.
Nasar Khan, who acted as a fixer for the sale of the victim, was found in Frankfurt and was extradited back to the UK. Khan was sentenced to three years in jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to facilitate a breach of immigration law.
Waqas Younus is still wanted in relation to the investigation.
A 20-year-old woman was kidnapped from her rural home in Slovakia. She was placed on a bus, where she was told she would be going to the Czech Republic to find work. Instead, she was trafficked to an address in Bradford by Imrich Bodor, where Abdul Sabool Shinwary and Kristina Makunova sold her to Azam Khan for sham marriage. Khan was attempting to secure his immigration status.
In October 2012, police received an anonymous phone call which led to the discovery of the 20-year-old, who had been falsely imprisoned, beaten and raped by Azam Khan at his home in Burnley. The victim spoke no English, had no money and her identity documents had been taken.
Imrich Bodor, Abdul Sabool Shinwary, Kristina Makunova and Azam Khan were found guilty of human trafficking and false imprisonment.
Azam Khan was found guilty of 3 counts of rape and battery.
Nusrat Khan, a relative of Azam who lived with him in Burnley, was found guilty of false imprisonment.
A tweet on the Preston Police Twitter page raised concern about some young women living at an address in Longworth Street, which was suspected to be a brothel. Further enquiries led to a police raid at the address, where two young women were found and were thought to have been brought to the UK from Romania and forced into sexual exploitation.
Marius Petre, Adrian Matei and Ionut Ion were arrested at the address. The victims, both aged 18, had only been in the UK for two weeks before they were found. They were transported to the UK from Romania by Petre and Matei with the promise of work as maids at a hotel.
Instead, they were taken to Longworth Street where they were told they would be working as prostitutes. The girls were forced to perform sexual acts on customers and were told that both they and their families would be beaten if they refused to comply, or tried to run away. They were also subjected to rape by Petre, Matei and Ionut, who were already at the house when the women arrived.
In February 2016, Marius Petre and Adrian Matei were found guilty of intentionally arranging or facilitating entry to the UK of a person with a view to their sexual exploitation, causing or inciting prostitution for financial gain and of four counts of rape. They were both sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Ionut Ion was found guilty of keeping or managing a brothel used for prostitution and of two counts of rape. He was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.
A gang of three brothers, their uncle and two women were found guilty of 55 serious offences, some of which lay undetected for almost 20 years. 15 vulnerable girls, one as young as 11, were subjected to acts of sexual violence between 1987 and 2003 including rape, forced prostitution, indecent assault and false imprisonment.
Karen MacGregor was sentenced to 13 years for conspiracy to procure a child for prostitution, false imprisonment, and conspiracy to rape. MacGregor was a high-profile campaigner on behalf of abused children. In 2013, she founded KinKids, a community support group for kinship carers. MacGregor boasted that KinKids had helped families affected by the scandal. She had persuaded Rotherham council, local Labour MP John Healey and other local organisations to support KinKids in the wake of heightened investigation into cases of child abuse in Rotherham.
MacGregor had been luring vulnerable girls to her home in Walker Street, which was described by one of the victims as akin to the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. There, she would groom them before pimping them out in order for them to earn their keep.
One of her victims described how MacGregor was a motherly figure who had taken her under her wing at a difficult time in her life and treated her like a daughter. Another victim described how within days of arriving, MacGregor had plied her with vodka to the point of unconsciousness before waking up to find herself being sexually assaulted.
The conduct of more than 50 officers from South Yorkshire Police who had dealt with the victims across the 20 year period is now under investigation.
October 18, 2018: Anti-Slavery Day Announcement
To mark Anti-Slavery Day 2018, I am delighted to announce that The Dark Figure* will be published as a photobook by Another Place Press in early 2019.
I’m truly excited to be working with APP, and the wonderful Iain Sarjeant to produce a beautiful, affordable photobook, and for The Dark Figure* to reach new audiences, through this new lease of life.
More coming soon.
PLUS: three new stories added to thedarkfigure.co.uk
Click on the dropdown menu and visit: London, Lincolnshire and Shirebrook for new stories.
February 2018: Fotofilmic18
The Dark Figure* has been shortlisted for Fotofilmic’s international juried traveling exhibition competition – the worlds only global call for contemporary analogue and film-based photography, presenting a unique and exciting picture of 21st century photographic arts, rooted in material practices.
If successful, The Dark Figure* will join the traveling exhibit, touring to Seoul, South Korea; San Francisco, US; and Vancouver, Canada. There is also the opportunity to win $5000 towards the continuation of the project.
Please show your appreciation for the work by following, sharing and writing to @amy.romer and @the_dark_figure on Twitter and Instagram.
I [Amy] would love to hear from you!
New Year 2018: The Dark Figure* is back on the road!
Despite living away from the U.K. during all of 2017, I [Amy] couldn’t help but use my Christmas vacation time back in England, once again on the road for The Dark Figure*.
Throughout the year I had been closely following various cases and exploring new avenues for the project, but knew I’d take the soonest opportunity to get back in my car with my Mamiya, and revive the landscape project.
That’s not to say I’m not excited about new avenues... just that old avenues are still young.
November 2017: Collaborating for Freedom
is honoured to have been able to collaborate with and contribute towards a new, important piece of research, led by Britain’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland, and the Rights Lab of the University of Nottingham, in producing the report: Collaborating for Freedom: anti-slavery partnerships in the U.K., published in November, 2017.
The Dark Figure*
To get your copy of The Dark Figure* DIY newspaper-exhibition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dark Figure* newspaper/DIY exhibition was produced as a way to tackle a complex narrative without bias, by taking one newspaper and using it in multi-linear forms. In doing so, the newspaper, which is visually driven by The Dark Figure*, becomes a valuable learning resource for those hoping deepen their understanding of modern slavery in Britain, and the challenges the U.K. are faced with.
There are also limited copies of The Dark Figure* zine. For a copy please email email@example.com.
Below is a recommended list of government and non-government resources, offering information about and the opportunity to donate.
Unseen UK - Unseen are a Bristol based charity whose efforts are focused in three main areas - supporting survivors, providing targeted solutions through thorough research, and influencing systems that keep slavery hidden.
ECPAT UK - ECPAT produce research on the trafficking of children into the UK and are instrumental in raising awareness in government of the plight of trafficked children for both sexual exploitation and exploitative labour. UK trafficked children factsheet.
Filipino Domestic Workers Association (FDWA) - The hidden nature of domestic work means that migrants are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The FDWA’s primary aim is to provide support and advice to migrant domestic workers in the UK and to raise awareness about the abuse and exploitation of domestic workers in the UK.
Migrant Help UK - Migrant Help work with adult male and female survivors (and their dependents) of all forms of modern day slavery; labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced criminality and other forms of human trafficking by providing support such as accommodation and material assistance, emergency medical treatment and access to other healthcare, access to substance misuse support, psychological support and mental health services, legal aid, advice, asylum help, English lessons, art therapy, sports initiatives and assistance services.
Anti-Slavery - Anti-Slavery work closely with partner organisations from around the world to help influence decision-makers and inspire change on a global level, particularly on bonded labour (also known as debt bondage), descent based slavery, forced labour, forced marriage, child labour, the exploitation of migrant workers in conditions amounting to slavery (particularly migrant domestic workers), and human trafficking.
Stop The Traffik - Stop The Traffik are a global charity that look to disrupt and prevent human trafficking through community teaching and by informing consumers about how trafficking impacts the supply chains of businesses world-wide. Stop The Traffik also gather, analyse and share information from individuals and stakeholders around the world on how and where trafficking is taking place.
Human Trafficking Foundation - The Human Trafficking Foundation (HTF) is a UK-based charity which grew out of the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking. HTF was created in order to support and add value to the work of the many charities and agencies operating to combat human trafficking in the UK.
UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) - The UKHTC is part of the Organised Crime Command in the National Crime Agency. They work with a wide range of partners and stakeholders with a primary goal that aims to protect the public, target traffickers and reduce the harm caused by human trafficking.
The UKHTC’s partners include police forces, the Home Office and other government departments, the UK Border Force, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), international agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other charitable and voluntary expert groups.
Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) - The GLA are a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB). Their licensing scheme regulates businesses who provide workers to the fresh produce supply chain and horticulture industry, to make sure they meet the employment standards required by law. Their aim is it prevent worker exploitation, protect vulnerable people and tackle unlicensed/criminal activity by ensuring those licensed, operate within the law.
Bawso - Bawso is a Welsh government accredited support provider, delivering specialist services to people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who are affected by domestic abuse and other forms of abuse, including female genital mutilation, forced marriage, human trafficking and prostitution. Bawso acts as a first responder, which means they can make referrals into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), on behalf of an individual, or make the referral if another frontline agency isn’t a first responder. They can also offer support to those that have already been referred by another agency and have several dedicated safe houses across Wales.
Distraction Pieces Podcast with Scroobius Pip #86: Housing for Women special - Mira’s story.
“ Pip breaks down the full process of what it took to get to the interview/chat stage with guest Mira in the intro (including the discussions with Comic Relief/Sport Relief and Housing For Women), which will prime you perfectly for what follows. And indeed, what follows from guest Mira is awfully hard to take in but a truly valuable, and an ultimately inspiring tale of what can happen after being swept up in a wave of unfairness, abuse, incredible mistreatment and a web of terrible people. Heavy, unflinchingly honest and very upfront, but a story that might have otherwise gone unheard - and Mira is a wonderful, positive person to share a Distraction Pieces Podcast with. A truly encouraging story which shows how much projects like Housing For Women’s ‘Re-Place’ initiative can help lives be rebuilt and restructured.”
For more of Amy Romer’s photography, visit: amyromer.com
All images © Amy Romer 2015–2018. All rights reserved.