December 17, 2014 / 5:58 PM / 3 years ago

Two charged with slavery-related offences in northern England

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Police have charged two men with slavery-related offences after a raid on a factory in the northern England town of Rochdale found 13 Slovakian immigrants working there in dire conditions.

Mohamad Iqbal, 51, and Najum Mohammed Iqbal, 40, were charged with knowingly requiring another person “to perform forced or compulsory labor”, remain in custody and will appear before Bury and Rochdale Magistrates Court on Thursday.

Police described the case as a typical example of how modern slavery can work in the United Kingdom.

Of five people arrested in connection with the case earlier this week, three were released on bail pending further inquiries, Greater Manchester Police spokesman Chris Taylor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Two of them were arrested for trafficking and forced labor and one for immigration offences.

The Slovakians, who worked in a factory producing pictures and frames, were paid just 25 pounds for an 80-hour work week after having about 100 pounds ($155) deducted from their wages for rent, travel and other expenses, the police said.

They were paid less than 2 pounds per hour and suffered physical and verbal assaults.

The deduction of wages “... leaves the men and women effectively working for pennies, while ... ensuring they remain reliant on the people enslaving them,” James Faulkner of Greater Manchester Police said in a statement.

“When you consider that this factory was producing frames and pictures for major high street companies, with contracts running into the millions of pounds, it proves just how much money these men stood to make from this exploitation,” he said.

Seven other people working in the factory were believed to be paid legitimate wages, said Taylor.

In a joint operation Greater Manchester Police and Rochdale Council found 10 of the immigrants living in a property in Rochdale, where up to four people had to share a room.

“The men and women are promised accommodation and jobs, but are forced to live in cramped, terrible conditions before being taken to work in a factory for more than 12 hours each day,” said Faulkner.

The action was part of Operation Retriever, during which five people were charged in November with involvement in a trafficking ring that sold a pregnant woman into a sham marriage.

The Foreign Office (ministry) estimates there are between 10,000 and 13,000 people living in slavery in Britain, far more than the previous estimate of between 4,200 and 4,600.

Reporting By Magdalena Mis; Editing by Tim Pearce

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