Government pledges millions in fight against modern slavery, just as dozens of illegal workers are removed from burger restaurant
Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged £33m in the battle against modern slavery in the UK.
The money will be focused on dealing with the routes of people-trafficking. She has also announced that she will be creating a new taskforce that will coordinate the way the government deals with slavery.
It is estimated that there are around 10,000 to 13,000 victims of slavery in Britain.
This pledge from the government, comes just as a London branch of Byron Hamburgers was shut down during a protest by anti-slavery campaigners, about the company’s involvement in an investigation by immigration officials that saw dozens of its employers removed.
According to the Home Office, 35 workers from Nepal, Albania, Egypt and Brazil were arrested as part of an immigration investigation undertaken with the co-operation of Byron.
The Home Office said that the burger business will not face any penalties as it had made the correct checks on their staff.
Protestors lined the streets outside the restaurant, accusing the company of “underhand entrapment” of its workers.
Protest organiser Ewa Jasiewicz, said: “The law doesn’t tell Byron to entrap workers, to lure them into a trap, to trick them into coming into work when actually they are being raided and they are going to be deported.
“A responsible employer that values the people that work for them, that make them their profits, would actually support them to get the right papers, to help them stay. They were literally discarded like bags of rubbish. It’s completely unacceptable. How they behaved might have been legal but it’s not ethical.”
Byron said on Twitter that the company was not aware that its workers had been using illegal paperwork until informed by the Home Office, and the company had fully complied with all asylum and immigration law.
One of the protestors, Lola, said that Byron had been dishonest and that the business should have made sure that undocumented workers were put in touch with specialist organisations to help them.
She said: “Instead of trapping them and lying to them, they could have said, ‘this is what is going to happen if you get caught. You are going to be deported. You are not going to be given time to speak to your families or get your belongings’.”
Meanwhile, a review of slavery in the UK, coinciding with the first anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act, has found that last year, 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted. There was also a 40% increase in victims being offered support.
Theresa May said: “This government is determined to build a Great Britain that works for everyone and will not tolerate modern slavery, an evil trade that shatters victims’ lives and traps them in a cycle of abuse.
“Last year I introduced the world-leading Modern Slavery Act to send the strongest possible signal that victims were not alone and that those responsible for this vile exploitation would face justice.
“We must do more and the historic £33.5m will allow us to go even further to support victims,” she added.