Hidden slavery in UK cannabis factories

10 March 2009

In response to the BBC findings published today (10 March 2009) on the large rise in the number of ‘cannabis factories’ in the UK, Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International, said:

“If the number of cannabis factories in the UK comes as a shock to the British public then so should the reality that slavery is fuelling the trade.

“We know that children, some as young as 14, are being trafficked to the UK by criminal gangs to act as ‘gardeners’ in cannabis factories.

“The trafficked children are forced to look after the cannabis plants against their will. They are not paid and risk arrest in place of their criminal masters.

“The children are also in danger of electrocution from the illegal wiring of the electricity supply needed for the lighting and heating of the plants. Police figures show that in London alone 50 cannabis factories were discovered as a result of house fires in 2006.

“It is essential that the police are able to identify trafficked children and adults as victims of crime instead of convicting them for drug offences. Indicators of forced labour include the removal of travel documents, or in some cases even shoes, to prevent trafficked people from being able to escape.

“As the UK Government ratified the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in December it is now imperative that trafficking survivors are protected and properly compensated for their ordeal.”