South London Women Held As Slaves For 30 Years Discovered, Set Free [Update]

Three South London women held as slaves for more than three decades have been rescued after one of the women reached out to a charity seeking help.

It was a shocking case that has drawn international attention, but experts say it will become increasingly common as global human trafficking increase.

“I am not at all shocked,” Anthony Steen, the UK Special Envoy for Human Trafficking, told LBC 97.3.. Modern slavery is alive and well. There are 2,500 brothels running in London, each with six or seven women, so that’s 14,000 women, many are prostitutes against their will.

“Slavery is a major problem in the world today. It’s 20 times the size it was when it was abolished.”

The United Nations estimates that worldwide there are as many as 2.5 million people in forced labor at any given time.

In London, police arrested a 67-year-old man and a 67-year-old woman in Lambeth, claiming that they held three women hostage in their home. The three captives — a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman, and a 30-year-old British woman — were rescued from the house October 25.

It took weeks for investigators to uncover the situation the women had been living under, and specialized workers are now helping the women. So far, investigators believe there are no signs of sexual abuse and are described the situation as “domestic servitude.”

Police are still determining the details of the women’s captivity, and whether the 30-year-old was born into the house or taken as an infant. The women reportedly had highly controlled lives, with the ability to spend some time outdoors, but only under strict supervision.

“We have seen some cases when people have been held for 10 years, but we have never seen anything of this magnitude before,” said Detective Kevin Hyland of the the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking Unit.

The situation was discovered when one of the women contacted Freedom Charity after she watched a television documentary on forced marriages that introduced the charity. Members of the organization then helped find the women and contact police.

“We applaud the actions of Freedom Charity and are working in partnership to support these victims who appear to have been held for over 30 years,” Hyland said. “We have launched an extensive investigation to establish the facts surrounding these very serious allegations.”

“A television documentary on forced marriages relating to the work of Freedom Charity was the catalyst that prompted one of the victims to call for help and led to their rescue.”

The story is similar in nature to another high-profile case from America. Earlier this year, three women held captive in Cleveland, Ohio, for more than a decade were able to escape. Their suspected captor, Ariel Castro, committed suicide in his jail cell after pleading guilty.

Police in South London said they still have much more to learn about the three women held as slaves, but believe they may have been related to their captors.

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