SOLIHULL police claim to have uncovered suspected cases of human trafficking and modern slavery in the borough.
The Safer Solihull Partnership – an alliance between West Midlands Police, the NHS and Solihull Council – has been undertaking investigations in the borough to root out modern slavery since January.
So-called modern slavery can involve compulsory labour, sexual exploitation and human trafficking, often of vulnerable foreign nationals.
It can mean being paid less than £4 an hour for work performed during long hours in dangerous conditions.
On Monday a Solihull Partnership spokesperson said: “Further visits today to locations in the borough where intelligence suggests human trafficking could be happening. One location in Shirley is suspected of providing sex services while another (in the borough) is suspected of using slaves to wash cars.
“We visited with Immigration. No victims came forward. However, it’s worth noting that labour exploitation is present across Solihull with individuals at various locations being paid as little as £4 an hour to undertake a variety of work. We will continue our work.”
Solihull police officers and NHS officials have been talking to residents about how to spot the signs of labour exploitation and how to report suspected cases.
Businesses such as cheap carwashes have been subject to multi-agency inspections since the beginning of the year – but no arrests have yet been made at any of these sites.
The partnership responded to many residents’ concerns on Twitter.
Annie Cooper asked how modern slavery doesn’t attract attention, to which a spokesperson responded: “This is a hidden crime and officers are being quite intrusive to spot it, asking specific questions and targeting locations identified through intelligence.
“If you pay less than £6 a car evidence suggests you may be sponsoring slavery.”
Some residents suggested there was no evidence to show slavery had taken place in the borough because no arrests had been made.
But the police made clear that perpetrators who run the businesses are usually not present at sites where slavery is in action.
Police suggested there are close links between organised crime networks and those who utilise labour exploitation of foreign nationals.
It is thought between 10 and 13,000 men, women and children are subject to trafficking and exploitation in the UK.
Police say investigations in Solihull are primarily about safeguarding and gathering intelligence to make future arrests and identify vulnerable individuals.
In response to other questions, the partnership spokesperson said: “Victims are working for £4 or less per hour, in dangerous conditions, under threat of violence to them or their family.
They often have no access to a passport, documents, funds, services a mobile phone or any support network.
“You may not see chains but there is no freedom or choice.”
Solihull Get Involved encouraged residents identify victims of modern slavery:
– They have few personal possessions
– They’re illegal tenants/ trespassers or are living in large groups in crowded or unsanitary conditions
– They show signs of physical neglect
– They travel in a large group and are closely monitored or controlled by a dominant individual
– Are mistrustful of authorities and are afraid of revealing their immigration status
– Work excessively long hours for low pay yet have very little of their own cash or earnings