Al Jazeera reveals modern slavery in the UK, Romanian workers live in shocking conditions

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The findings prompted a warning from Britain’s anti-slavery commissioner that companies all over the United Kingdom could unwittingly be using modern-day slaves.

Secret filming by Al Jazeera uncovered shocking conditions at a carwash in Kent, southeast England, used by dealerships.

Workers living in squalid containers at the carwash in Canterbury say they are paid USD 50 for 12-hour shifts, suffer verbal and physical abuse, and have wages withheld for causing minor damage.

(…) Al Jazeera found workers claiming to work 12 and 13-hour days for less than half the legal minimum wage. They say they often had no breaks and were charged at least a day’s pay for squalid accommodation in shabby containers on the site.

Most of the workers are Romanian and speak little or no English. At least one of them claimed that the car wash boss took his travel documents from him, while others spoke of having their pay withheld as a fine for causing minor damages.

Workers who had accidentally damaged cars said their boss had deducted hundreds of pounds from their wages, leaving them earning nothing for weeks on end. Another worker had to pay a huge sum for breaking the wheels of a vacuum cleaner.

We heard that another car washer was taken into the boss’s office and punched, while the site manager said that another worker was hit even harder.

Others spoke of verbal abuse and complained of bedbugs and other pests infesting their accommodation. (…)

Thousands of Eastern Europeans work in carwashes across Britain. Many of the workers from come from poor parts of Romania, tempted by advertisements on websites that promise good pay and living conditions. But too often, the promises do not match the reality, and the workers end up being exploited, many of them in Britain’s 20,000 unregistered carwashes.

(…) A Romanian pimp reveals to an undercover researcher the techniques he uses to control and exploit young women brought over to London from Romania. The pimp, who is in his 20s, explains calmly that he does not need to use physical violence because he has ways of controlling the women’s minds. “Now, there are new ways of keeping a girl under control,” he says. “You have to know a lot about the woman from back home. You need to know the one thing that is precious to her. “You just tell her: ‘If you don’t do this, you are f****d.

“Why should I slap them when I can just use words to destroy them mentally?”

(…) Robert says he controls four Romanian women in Ilford, East London. Sitting in a car that he says he was given by a client in exchange for a whole night with one of the young women, Robert says they work all night, every night. “I have four women, and I send them all on the street, and I stay at home,” he says. “I have someone I pay to keep an eye on them.”

Three of the women have worked for the last year-and-a-half without a single day off, he says. He says he makes them work “nonstop, every day”.

“This has to become work for them – a routine. They need to wake up and say: ‘I have to go to work.'”

The pimp talks about how sleepless nights affect the women’s appearance. “Do you know what it means not to sleep at night for a month?

“The face changes, they get dark circles around their eyes. The tiredness makes them look terrible.”

Some sex slaves eventually manage to escape from their horrendous ordeals. Anna, who was rescued from her traffickers by police in the north of England, told how she was forced into prostitution at the age of 16.

She comes from a poor family in western Romania and was excited when she met a young man who became her boyfriend and told her he would take her to Italy for a holiday.

It was the teenager’s first trip abroad. When they arrived in Italy, her boyfriend told her that she had to sell sex and give him the money. She tried to refuse, saying how “he became angry and hit me.” Anna was locked in a room and forced to be a prostitute, providing whatever services the clients wanted, no matter how depraved. “Some clients paid to beat me,’ she says.

Anna was a victim of the “lover-boy pimp trap”, a technique used by many exploiters: seduce, beat, rape and control with threats and violence.

For Anna, her “holiday” in Italy was the beginning of 11 years of sex slavery. She was trafficked to Austria, Spain and finally to Britain where she was locked in dingy apartments and cheap hotels, working every day for no money.


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