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British Couple Arrested for Enslaving Man in Their Garden Shed

By Lin Taylor

LONDON, Oct 31 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — A British couple have been arrested for enslaving a Polish man in their garden shed for four years, and forcing him to work for expired food, authorities said on Wednesday, amid a nationwide crackdown on modern slavery.

A 56-year-old woman and 54-year-old man from Chilworth in southern England were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences on Tuesday, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), said in a statement.

Take Action: Ramp Up the Pressure: Call on the UK Government to Prioritise Support to Modern Slavery Survivors

It said medics alerted authorities when a Polish man in his 40s entered a walk-in health centre and told staff he was forced to work for food.

The man, who is now receiving government support, also said he had no flushing toilet and was made to sleep on a plastic sun lounger in the concrete shed.

"In the 21st century, no one should be forced to live in such degrading and disgusting conditions," said Tony Byrne, senior investigating officer with the GLAA, Britain's anti-slavery body.

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Britain has set itself as a global leader in the fight against slavery, passing a tough anti-trafficking law in 2015, which it plans to review amid criticism that it is not being used fully to jail traffickers or help victims.

The country is home to an estimated 136,000 slaves, according to Australian rights group Walk Free Foundation.

The arrest comes just weeks after specialist officers in the north of England rescued another potential slavery victim who had lived in a shed for 40 years. A 79-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences.

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Many are immigrants lured to Britain under the false promise of a better life and then forced to work at car washes, construction sites, hotels, nail bars, and farms, officials say.

(Reporting by Lin Taylor @linnytayls, Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)