Authorities were alerted when a 20-year-old male trafficking victim contacted a charity, revealing he had been the victim of offences committed in 2011. More victims soon came forward, and others were identified.
West Yorkshire police launched Operation Tavernhouse and in May, convictions were made against Hungarian traffickers Janos Orsos and Ferenc Illes, who had been providing Kozee Sleep, a bed factory that supplied retailers including John Lewis, Dunelm and Next with Hungarian workers.
Company owner Mohammed Rafiq and two of his employees were charged with conspiracy to facilitate travel within the UK for exploitation. Rafiq is the first owner of a UK company to be charged with human trafficking offences.
Workers supplied to Kozee Sleep were forced to live with up to 42 men in a two-bedroom house on Batley Field Hill and were found to be surviving on small scraps of food. The men would work for up to 20 hours a day and were paid as little as £10 a week.
In May 2014, Janos Orsos pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic a person into the UK for exploitation, conspiracy to traffic a person within the UK for exploitation, blackmail and converting criminal property. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment. Ferenc Illes pleaded guilty to conspiracy to traffic a person within the UK for exploitation. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
In January 2016, Mohammed Rafiq was found guilty of conspiracy to traffic and was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment. He had pleaded not guilty.
The Dark Figure* is an ongoing photographic project that investigates and documents UK neighbourhoods where victims have been identified as modern-day slaves.
Photo: Batley Field Hill, Batley, Kirklees, courtesy of The Dark Figure