Three women rescued in London 'after 30 years in slavery'

21st November 2013, Comments 0 comments

Three women have been rescued from a house in London where they had been held as slaves for at least 30 years, including one who had spent her entire life in servitude, police said Thursday.

The victims were a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old from Ireland, and a 30-year-old Briton who had had "no contact with the outside world", said Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland.

He said his team had never seen anything of this magnitude before and described the women as "deeply traumatised".

Earlier Thursday, detectives arrested a man and a woman, both 67, at their home in the Lambeth borough of south London.

Police said they did not know if the 30-year-old woman was born in the house.

She and the older women had "controlled freedom", Hyland said, but police were seeking to establish what that meant in practice.

The women's first step to liberation came when they contacted the Freedom Charity last month after learning about the group in a television programme.

The charity usually deals with forced marriage and honour-based abuse but is also used to working with women who feel trapped in difficult situations.

The charity negotiated with the women via secret telephone calls to gain their trust over the course of a week, before it contacted the police.

"It's clear that they've been in this situation for at least 30 years," said Hyland, who leads Scotland Yard's Human Trafficking Unit.

"We have seen some cases where people have been held for up to 10 years but we have never seen anything of this magnitude before," he said.

"They did have some controlled freedom but we are establishing the facts of how that controlled freedom operated.

"Their life was greatly controlled and for much of it they would have been kept in the premises."

He said police were not sure where the 30-year-old was born, but it was not thought the women were related.

Aneeta Prem, the founder of the Freedom Charity, said their treatment was "barbaric" and their liberation an "amazing story".

"You're basically looking at domestic slavery, and you wouldn't expect that to be happening in the UK, in London, in 2013," she told Sky News.

"They did manage to get a phone and they did manage to make a call to us," she said.

'Barbaric and so out of everyone's imagination'

Prem said she thought the women had suffered physical abuse but that they had not reported any sexual abuse.

She said the two people arrested were the "heads of the family" in which the three women were kept.

"The ladies were absolutely terrified of these people," she said.

"They did have rooms that they could use but they were very restricted on everything they could do.

"I don't believe the neighbours knew anything about it at all.

"I think you would describe it as just an ordinary house in an ordinary street that wouldn't raise any concerns with any neighbours or anyone else.

She said she found it hard to believe "that human beings can treat each other that way".

"It's something that's so barbaric and so out of everyone's imagination that anybody could treat anybody in such a way that people feel that they are slaves."

She said the women had been taken together to a place of safety, and were doing well considering their ordeal.

"They're going to hopefully have happy, fulfilled lives once they get over this horrendous trauma, if they ever will get over the trauma that they've been in," said Prem.

Earlier this year, three women who were imprisoned in a house in Cleveland, Ohio, for more than a decade were freed.

The inaugural Global Slavery Index published last month ranked Britain as having the joint lowest prevalence of modern-day slavery out of 160 countries.

The index, compiled by the Walk Free Foundation, estimated that between 4,200 and 4,600 people were held in modern-day slavery in Britain.

The definition includes slavery itself, plus slavery-like practices -- such as debt bondage, forced marriage and the sale or exploitation of children -- as well as human trafficking and forced labour.


© 2013 AFP

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