It seems incredible that we should be writing about a ‘slave trade’ going on right under our noses in 21st century West Yorkshire.
And yet this is the grim, dismaying reality: somewhere in this city and wider region, perhaps on a street where you live, there are people being ‘kept’ in intolerable conditions forced to work for barely nothing, under the power of gangmasters who literally have their lives in their hands.
Over dramatic? Not a bit of it. And what’s clear is that we, the unwitting consumer, could be making the problem grow. Take our story today. West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson’s warnings to shoppers to be wary of the implications of so-called bargain buys hark back to that old adage ‘if it seems too good to be true, it probably is’ - only with far more serious connotations.
His appeal for sharp eyes and ears follows the conviction and jailing of bed company boss Mohammed Rafiq for employing slave labour.
Rafiq’s ‘employees’ - Hungarian nationals - worked for up to 16 hours a day for as little as £10 per week, it was revealed. A court hearing heard last year how the victims had to survive on scraps of food, with up to 42 men living in a two-bedroom house.
A desperate, desperate situation. Cheap or cut-price goods might appear a bargain at first glance but it’s worth bearing in mind there could be others paying a much, much higher price.