Court imposes tough restrictions after Indian students ‘exploited’ in North Wales care homes
6th February 2023
Five people suspected of recruiting and exploiting vulnerable Indian students working in care homes across North Wales have been handed a Slavery and Trafficking Risk Order (STRO).
Investigators from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) were granted the order indefinitely against the following defendants at Mold Magistrates’ Court on Thursday February 2:
- Mathew Issac, 32, of Cae Eithin, Abergele
- Jinu Cherian, 30, of Cae Eithin, Abergele
- Eldhose Cherian, 25, of Abererch Road, Pwllheli
- Eldhose Kuriachan, 25, of Abererch Road, Pwllheli
- Jacob Liju, 47, of Lon Ceredigion, Pwllheli
All five were arrested by the GLAA between December 2021 and May 2022. Investigations are ongoing but there have been no criminal charges at this stage.
The defendants are originally from the state of Kerala in India and have links to care homes in Abergele, Pwllheli, Llandudno, and Colwyn Bay, either by working there themselves or having a direct family link to someone who works in them.
Issac and his wife, Jinu Cherian, also supplied workers through Alexa Care Solutions, a recruitment agency registered in May 2021.
Reports to the Modern Slavery and Exploitation Helpline only three months later said that Indian workers employed by Alexa Care were not being paid correctly or were having their wages withheld.
Significant concerns were raised at the same time about the workers’ appearance and that they always appeared to be hungry.
The GLAA has identified more than 50 Indian students as being potential victims of modern slavery and labour abuse over the last 14 months.
All have received or have been offered the chance of support from the GLAA, including the opportunity to enter the government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
The conditions within the order prevent the defendants from:
- Interfering with due process by attempting to contact a list of complainants and witnesses
- Arranging anyone’s travel within, into, or out of the UK, other than for themselves or their immediate family
- Arranging transport or travel for anyone to work, other than for themselves or their immediate family
- Renting or subletting any property or rooms controlled by them, or any other accommodation owned, controlled or rented by them, other than to immediate family
- Procuring, coercing, instructing or engaging anyone else to carry out any of the restrictions listed above on their behalf
In addition, the STRO orders all five to:
- Inform the GLAA of any change of name or address within seven days
- Allow the GLAA access, at any reasonable time, to where they are living to establish and confirm that the STRO is being complied with
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 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.
“Through our investigations, we have concluded that such an order is proportionate to protect further workers from being potentially exploited and abused.”
Breaching the order is a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
The GLAA has continued to work with Care Inspectorate Wales, and the relevant local authorities, throughout the investigation.