Police rescue man trafficked into forced labour in UK first

1 November 2007

In an important first, police rescued a man trafficked to the United Kingdom for forced labour.

The 22-year-old was trafficked from the Czech Republic and forced into agricultural work in Cambridgeshire, lured by the false promise of a good job. Upon arrival, his identification papers were taken by the traffickers, and only they could access the bank account used for his wages.

He was forced to work long hours for a year and denied adequate food. When he tried to escape the house where he was kept in Peterborough, he was caught and forcibly returned.

This is the first forced labour case to be detected by police in the UK. The man was rescued by Cambridgeshire police who were part of Pentameter 2, a national initiative targeting trafficking for sexual exploitation, after they received a call from a member of the public.

Even though trafficking for forced labour is widespread, affecting hundreds of men, women and children, and has been a criminal offence in the UK since 2004, Anti-Slavery International is not aware of a single conviction for this crime. Furthermore, there is no system of protection or support for people trafficked to the UK in this way.

It is vital the traffickers are prosecuted and that the trafficked man is given specialist assistance and compensation for his unpaid wages.

Recently the UK Government made progress on the issue of protection for trafficked people when it signed the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings in March this year, and pledged to ratify it. The Convention is the only international law that provides all trafficked people with guaranteed minimum standards of protection, including at least 30 days to stay in the country to receive emergency medical assistance, safe housing and legal advice.

It is vital the UK Government ratifies and implements the Convention as a matter of urgency.

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Background on trafficking in the UK

Trafficking for Forced Labour: UK country report