“Immoral” gangmasters who exploit migrant workers must face full force of the law, MP Barclay says

MP Steve Barclay raises the issue of rogue landlords in the House of Commons

MP Steve Barclay raises the issue of rogue landlords in the House of Commons - Credit: Archant

MP Steve Barclay has spoken out against “immoral” gangmasters who exploit migrant workers.

In an interview on BBC Look East, the North East Cambs MP said thousands of foreign workers are being forced to live in overcrowded and sub-standard housing in Fenland by unscrupulous landlords.

MP Barclay is at the forefront of Operation Pheasant, the multi-agency task force set up with Government funding to tackle the growing issue of Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs).

He highlighted the alarming case of an HMO in Whittlesey where the abuse of migrants had been particularly shocking.

MP Barclay said: “There is a live enquiry in Whittlesey in which a number of arrests have been made.

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“CCTV cameras have been installed at the front door, back door and even inside the house.

“Residents had their passports confiscated and wages taken off them.

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“The way they are treated and the conditions they live in are immoral.

“Gangmasters are behaving immorally and illegally and it is important the full force of the law is brought against them.

“We need to make sure wider planning powers are enforced and ensure the Gangmasters Licensing Authority have the resources to investigate and bring such cases to light.”

Many migrants have been lied to about what to expect when they arrive in Fenland, MP Barclay said.

He said: “Clearly in some cases people have been misled and told in Lithuania that if they come to the Fens they will have accommodation and a job.

“They use their live savings to come over and get ripped off by the gangmasters.”

Sometimes the blame lies with landlords but in other instances it is the letting agency which is at fault, MP Barclay said.

He said: “Some landlords are aware of what’s going on but in other cases it is the letting agency that is at fault.

“A group of landlords are suing a lettings agency in Wisbech for a breach of the legal agreement.

“The key message is that authorities are much more robust on this issue.

“What is going on is unfair both on people suffering from overcrowding and overcharging and local residents suffering from antisocial behaviour as a result of this issue.”

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