It follows the arrest of five people suspected of exploiting Indian students working in Welsh care homes between December 2021 and May 2022.
The defendants – Mathew Issac, 32, Jinu Cherian, 30, Eldhose Cherian, 25, Eldhose Kuriachan, 25, Jacob Liju, 47 – are all originally from India but now live in the towns of Abergele and Pwllheli in northern Wales.
Some worked at care homes in the regions themselves while others were connected via family members working at the residences. According to authorities, Issac and Cherian also supplied workers through a recruitment agency.
The company was reported to the modern slavery and exploitation helpline for incorrectly paying Indian workers or withholding wages. Concerns were also raised about the workers’ appearances and that they “always appeared to be hungry”, according to the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.
All the students identified as victims have now been offered support from the GLAA. The Indian High Commission in the UK said on Twitter it was “concerned” by the news and encouraged affected students to contact the organisation for support.
The five defendants, who were arrested between December 2021 and May 2022, have been given slavery and trafficking risk orders, which prevents them from arranging travel into or out of the UK and renting or subletting property to anyone other than immediate family members. There have been no criminal charges yet.
Last year, UK universities raised concerns about the increasing numbers of international students dropping out of courses to work in care homes – a sector facing severe staff shortages.
The PIE News found adverts on social media encouraging international students to switch from student visas to skilled worker visas to enable them to take up jobs in the industry.
“Where labour shortages exist, there is an increased risk of opportunists using the situation for their own financial gain”
GLAA senior investigating officer Martin Plimmer said, “We are all aware that staffing levels have been a cause concern in the care sector for some time, and have not been helped by the Covid–19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately, where labour shortages exist, there is an increased risk of opportunists using the situation for their own financial gain, usually at the expense of workers that they are exploiting.
“Tackling the exploitation of workers in care homes is one of the GLAA’s top priorities, and this order is crucial in restricting the activities of those we suspect would otherwise commit slavery or trafficking offences.”