Parallel societies

This report from UK think tank the Centre for Social Justice looks at slavery, exploitation and criminal subculture in Leicester.

COVID-19 has put under the spotlight the fast fashion industry in Leicester East, and its exploitation of thousands of (mostly immigrant) workers, 1. Exploitation that ranges from unsafe working conditions through to slavery; from staff being paid below the minimum wage to fraud. None of these are acceptable and must be addressed. A spike in COVID-19 cases in Leicester in June (135 cases per 100,000 people, three times higher than the next highest area; between six and ten hospital admissions per day in Leicester, rather than one or two in other trusts), 2 triggered a series of media investigations. These exposed £3.50-an-hour labourers, some of them exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, packed into overcrowded buildings without proper ventilation or hygiene measures. Workers’ fears of contracting COVID-19, passing it onto their families and the possible resultant deaths outweighed their fear of reprisals from employers and some workers agreed to speak up. However, according to our witnesses, many were immediately intimidated and harassed by their employers after speaking to the journalists who visited Leicester. These inhumane conditions are the tragic consequence of an extraordinary clientelist model, our witnesses report, whose tentacles reach into every part of this constituency: police, the electoral roll, local councillors, the fire brigade and other authorities. More damning still is the fact that these recent exposes are but the latest effort to raise the alarm about the situation in Leicester East. The “Al Capone Mafia State”, as one witness who worked in the sector branded it, has been entrenched for decades.

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