US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — It was already late at night when on February 5, 2004, an alarm bell rang in the police of the city of Leicester in the north-west of England. “Drowning! Water!” Someone shouted desperately into the receiver. “In the background, you can hear the sound of wind and waves and the voices of foreigners shouting and crying,” it was recorded in the telephone service magazine. Then the call was interrupted.
At least 21 illegal migrants from China drowned that night in Morecambe Bay. A fishing company from Liverpool sent these people to the bay to collect shellfish. For 25 kilograms they were promised to pay five pounds. No one said that the bay is notorious for dangerous currents and a rapidly approaching tide.
After this terrible incident, London created a new agency – the Office for the Suppression of Banditry and Labor Violence (GLAA), which is designed to counteract the organizers of illegal migration and criminal employment agencies. In 2015, the Lower House of Parliament adopted the Law against Modern Slavery, the only legal act in the world aimed at combating slavery today. But, despite these efforts, more and more scandalous facts are constantly revealed in the United Kingdom.
The sweatshop system is booming
Two weeks ago, the government introduced quarantine in Leicester, because the number of newly infected coronaviruses rose sharply there. The foci of infection turned out to be the so-called sweatshops – sweatshops. With the onset of the coronavirus crisis, they are experiencing an unprecedented boom due to increased demand for clothing on the Internet. As many critics have noted, sweatshops demonstrate how greed and passion for consumption can contribute to two global ills: slave labor and the coronavirus pandemic.
Lester got rich thanks to the textile industry that flourished there in the 19th century. This industry is still present in the city. She supplies her products with cheap chains like Boohoo, Nasty Gal or Missguided, whose customers, when they see Kim Kardashian’s new dress, are eager to order it the next day via the Internet.
However, in many factories, working conditions have not changed much since Victorian times. In some places, they even resemble the situation in industries in countries with cheap labor, for example, in Bangladesh. Workers bend their backs behind sewing machines for five euros per hour, working hours are not limited, in case of illness they are not paid money.
The fact that employers do not comply with the rules against the spread of coronavirus proves the high number of infections among workers. Too much of a temptation was the profit that businessmen hoped to make, taking advantage of their location after the introduction of a nationwide quarantine. While the supply chains of other companies were broken, they took advantage of the desire of home-based consumers to get new rags.
“Greed is what still makes slavery possible,” says Louise Gore. She works in Birmingham at the Jericho Foundation, which helps victims of trafficking with housing and training. Half of the Trust’s wards came from EU countries, mainly from Central and Eastern Europe. Some come from Africa or Asia, but many also live in England in the second generation. “Almost everyone had a fate that became victims of traffickers,” Gore explains.
Broken lives, lack of money, depression, learning difficulties. Plus, there is a language barrier. Many workers at sweatshops speak English poorly or do not speak the language at all. Even if they know about their rights, then, according to Gore, they are afraid of intermediaries who control and intimidate them. For example, they threaten to take away passports.
Authorities do not cope
According to Gore, West Midlands, where Birmingham is located, is in second place in terms of the number of possible victims of modern slavery in the country. “But the employees of the service called to deal with this cannot cope – there are too few of them,” Gore says. GLAA, a specialist in combating trafficking in human beings, has a total of 120 employees nationwide. Accordingly, the number of injured people transferred to the National Registration Service (NRM) is also small. This service is a system on the basis of which the victims of modern slavery have been granted protection by the government departments since 2015, and in some cases the legal status of stay in the country.
According to the estimates of the British Ministry of the Interior, now in the UK there are 13 thousand victims of modern slave traders. But the British Office for the fight against crime considers this assessment “only the tip of the iceberg.” The authors of the latest Global Slavery Index estimate the real number at least 136 thousand.
“The number of victims of modern slavery due to the crisis with the coronavirus is likely to increase,” says Phil Brewer, a former chief of the Anti-Slavery Unit at the London Police. Because the British expect economic gloomy times, unemployment will be at the level of the 1980s.
“Some will be willing to work longer for less and without proper social security,” says Phil. “And they probably don’t have the guts to inform the authorities if their employers start to violate the regulations on the fight against coronavirus.” According to Brewer, this happens all the time.
Carole Murphy, a fellow at the Center for the Study of Modern Slavery at St. Mary’s University of London, is also pessimistic about Britain’s future. “Until now, people who have fallen into a difficult personal situation have become victims of modern slavery. In the future, among them will be people who find themselves in difficult situations who are not directly directly connected with them, and the coronavirus pandemic is one of them. ” And she is far from complete in the UK.
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