Monday, 4 April 2011

Slavery In The Suburbs

A housewife who kept a Tanzanian ‘slave’ in her Harrow bungalow for over three years – forcing the woman to work from 5am and sleep on a mattress on the kitchen floor – has dodged jail.

Widow Saeeda Khan, 68, (pictured) was ordered to pay £25,000 compensation to the victim, plus £15,000 costs after her conviction for trafficking people for exploitation, contrary to the Asylum and Immigration Act.

She was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command.

When they arrived at the property in Whitemore Road, Harrow, North-West London on February 11, last year they rescued the 47 year-old woman.

Later, after a search of the address they found a thin folded up mattress (pictured) in the hallway with sheets that looked like they were being used as a duvet cover.

The victim met Khan when she worked for her at a Tanzanian hospital before 2005 and after she was made redundant they put her in touch with the defendant.

She was told that there was one role working for Khan as a domestic help and assisting in the care of her grown-up children. 

The victim accepted the contracted job at 120,000 Tanzanian shillings per month - £38 – to be split between her daughter’s school fees, a bank in her home country and a £10 personal allowance.

She began working in October, 2006 and Khan immediately confiscated her passport and visa documents, locking up the rest of her belongings in the garden shed.

Every day the victim was given a long list of household chores, which included cooking, cleaning, gardening and caring for Khan’s grown up children and regularly worked through the night without sleep.

The victim was not given one of Khan’s three bedrooms and she was never allowed to eat with the family, often simply being given a portion of bread.

Khan controlled everything the victim did - she was rarely allowed out of the house alone, not allowed to make phone calls without the defendant’s presence and was forbidden time off.

On one occasion the victim wished to return to Tanzania to see her dying parents - she was prevented from doing so by Khan, and never saw her mother or father alive again.

From October 2006 until October 2007 the victim received the £10 monthly payments she expected, but suddenly they stopped.

A year later her daughter was unable to pay for her school fees as the money which she had previously been collecting from the hospital in Tanzania, was suddenly not available to her any more.

Whenever the victim attempted to ask for payment or enquire why she was not receiving the money she was owed, she would be shouted at or told that she should stop complaining and that she would be rewarded in the afterlife for her hard work.

It was only when the victim required urgent medical attention on February 1, last year that her dire living situation was uncovered.

The doctor demanded to see her without Khan’s presence and she revealed for the first time her living conditions and was rescued by officers and offered support by a number of different charitable organizations.

When quizzed by police Khan attempted a desperate cover-up, insisting the victim was happy and even transferred a lump sum to the Tanzanian account in a bid to show wages had been paid.

Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Martin said: “Human trafficking is one of the biggest generators of criminal finance in the world.

“Forcing people to work as slaves is a deplorable part of this immoral trade and one that we will do everything we can to stop.

“This particular case highlights the lengths that traffickers will go to when trying to avoid prosecution.

“I would like to commend the victim who has shown incredible strength and courage by coming forward to the authorities to relay her terrifying and degrading ordeal.

“We continue to work closely with charitable organisations involved in this sensitive area of crime and hope to rescue other women, men or children who are being exploited by these despicable criminals.”

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