Monday, November 25, 2013

Enslaved Women in London...Has the Whole World Gone Crazy

 What do we know so far?

Guard: Police stand in front of a property in Brixton, Borough of Lambeth, south London where three women were allegedly kept as slaves for at least 30 years
Guard: Police stand in front of a property in Brixton, Borough of Lambeth, south London where three women were allegedly kept as slaves for at least 30 years

Details about the story of three women who were rescued after allegedly being held as slaves in a south London house for 30 years have begun to emerge. Here is what we have been told so far.  The women were identified by the Metropolitan Police as a 30-year-old Briton, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian. Their names have not yet been released, but police have said they are investigating their relationship to each other. The police do not think they were trafficked to the UK.

Commander Steve Rodhouse said: "We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology, and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a 'collective'."

The Metropolitan Police believe the 30-year-old had spent her whole life in conditions of servitude. Officers have recovered a birth certificate for the woman, but no other official papers.  Det Insp Kevin Hyland, from the Met's Human Trafficking Unit, said the women were "highly traumatized".
He said they had been "held in servitude for at least 30 years with no real exposure to the outside world".

Aneeta Prem from Freedom Charity, who helped rescue the women, said they were doing
"remarkably well" considering what they had experienced. Police are making house-to-house inquiries in the Brixton area of south London as part of the investigation. The women were rescued from an address in Peckford Place, Brixton ( in the south of London)

 A man, 73, and a woman, 67, were arrested on the  21st of November on suspicion of being involved in forced labour and domestic servitude, as well as immigration offences. They have been released on bail but have not returned to the house where they were arrested. The pair are Aravindan Balakrishnan and his wife Chanda, neither of whom are British nationals.

Police said the couple came to the UK from India and Tanzania in the 1960s, and are said to have been in the UK "for many years". According to Marxist archives they were leading figures at the Mao Zedong Memorial Centre based in Acre Lane, Brixton, south London, in the 1970s.

Both suspects had previously been arrested by the Metropolitan Police in the 1970s, but the force declined to give details of what for. Police are carrying out door-to-door inquiries in Brixton. The couple has been linked to 13 addresses across London, police have said.

The Irish woman called Freedom Charity on 18 October and told them she had been held against her will at a house in London for more than 30 years, and said there were two others with her. She called the charity after seeing a TV documentary about forced marriage. Ms Prem said the woman had used the phone in secret, with the people in the house unaware that she had it.

Freedom Charity alerted the Met's Sexual Offences Exploitation and Child Abuse Command on the same day and it was passed on to the Human Trafficking Unit on 21 October.

After days of "sensitive negotiations" conducted by the charity, the British woman and the Irish woman left the house when the owners were not in, to meet with the police and workers from the charity on 25 October at an agreed location.

The women told them where the house where they had been held was, and the Malaysian woman was then rescued by the police.

Det Insp Kevin Hyland
Det Insp Kevin Hyland's Human Trafficking Unit has been investigating the case

All three were taken to what the police described as "a place of safety".  The Met Police Commander said the focus was on the women's physical safety "but their emotional and mental well being also".
"To gain the trust and confidence of highly traumatized victims takes time, and this must move at their pace, not anyone else's."
It probably appeared to the outside world that the three women and the two suspects were a "normal" family, the police said, living in an unremarkable house in a normal street. The commander said it was "not as brutally obvious as women being physically restrained inside an address and not allowed to leave".  The women had some "controlled freedom", and officers were trying to understand the "invisible handcuffs" that were used to exert control over the women.

Police do not believe the women were sexually abused, but said they had described being beaten.
The 30-year-old is alleged to have written more than 200 impassioned letters and poems to her neighbour over an eight-year period. In one of the letters, she said she felt like a "fly trapped in a spider's web" and described her "unspeakable torment".

The Police Commander said "trying to label this investigation as domestic servitude or forced labour is far too simple". He said the case appeared to be "a complicated and disturbing picture of emotional control over many years, brainwashing would be the most simplest term, yet that belittles the years of emotional abuse these victims have had to endure".

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