Organisation launched after Morecambe Bay cockling tragedy reveals modern day slavery horror

The treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay
The treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay

The extent of labour exploitation in modern-day Britain has been laid bare by a body set up in the wake of Lancashire’s 2004 cockle picking disaster.

The Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) was formed after a team of Chinese cocklers perished when they were caught in fast incoming tides on Warton Sands, Hest Bank, near Morecambe, on February 5 2004.

Police believe 23 people died, though only 21 were recovered.

The GLAA, which was given police-style powers last May to tackle exploitation across the labour market, says it has found victims of labour exploitation are most commonly Vietnamese, Albanian and British, with British victims increasing by 364 per cent.

A report says social media is being used to recruit workers who go on to be exploited, with many arriving in the UK for work that doesn’t exist.

In its first year it has arrested 107 people, identified 1,335 abused workers, launched 181 investigations and inspected 245 businesses.

The GLAA swooped on the The Shiny car wash on London Road, Preston in October 20 and found eight potential victims.

Roger Bannister, interim Chief Executive, said: “The sad reality is that the criminality that drives exploitation and slavery is quite close to home in the towns, cities and countryside in which we live and work.”