Police raid Preston city centre business in modern slavery probe and find Eastern European workers living in squalor
A number of Eastern Europeans have been found living in squalor after a modern slavery raid in Preston city centre.
Lancashire Police and Preston City Council raided a renovated business premises at the former Past Times shop in Fishergate on Tuesday (April 16).
The raid was based on intelligence from the public which suggested that modern slavery practices were in force at the Fishergate site, on the corner of Glover's Court and next door to Footlocker.
The reports had been made by concerned members of the public who had suspected that Eastern European workers were being exploited at the site.
Several Eastern Europeans were found to be living and working on the premises in conditions described as "squalid" and "entirely unsuitable for living".
The men were spoken to about their working and pay conditions, provided with information about the national minimum wage and advised of their employee rights.
DS Abi Finch-Hall said: “Lancashire Constabulary is committed to ensuring that people who work in Lancashire are kept safe.
"Forced labour is a form of modern slavery where people are forced, deceived or threatened to work long hours for little or no pay.
“Through multi agency visits such as these, we will continue to identify potential victims of modern slavery and help to identify and bring to justice people who chose to exploit others.
"Our intention is to eradicate modern slavery from Lancashire and we have been raising the profile of modern slavery especially in the area of forced labour.
"We urge members of the public to report their concerns or observations regarding modern slavery or human trafficking to the modern slavery helpline on 08000 121 700.”
Craig Sharp, chief environmental health officer from Preston City Council added: “The vigilance of the public in reporting suspicions along with the collaborative working of Preston City Council’s environmental health, planning enforcement and fraud teams, Lancashire Police and the Health and Safety Executive has protected the welfare of these individuals.
“Following an inspection, we found they were living in a property that was in effect a working construction site and therefore entirely unsuitable as a place to live.
"The premises were immediately closed as accommodation.
"Our housing standards team advised occupants of the dangers of living at the property and made them aware of their employment rights, as well as encouraged them to speak to the council’s housing advice team for help with any immediate housing needs.
“The council and our partners will not hesitate to act where we find unacceptable housing conditions and we urge tenants to contact us if they find themselves in such circumstances.”
If you have any concerns around modern slavery please call the modern slavery helpline on 08000 121 700, or report to lancashire.police.uk/reportonline.