A slavery investigation has been launched after two men were found living and working in ‘filthy’ conditions in an abandoned department store.
The two men, from Romania, were discovered sleeping on mattresses on the upper floor of the derelict building without any hot water, heating or flushing toilets.
The former T J Hughes store in Eastbourne, East Sussex, has been empty since it closed in 2019.
Concerns were raised to authorities over the site, where a rubbish clearance company from London had been called in to clear the building of fixtures and fittings.
The two men were found at the building site on Thursday with no shower or cooking facilities and no protective equipment, police said.
Officers launched an investigation into possible labour exploitation under modern slavery laws.
Detective Sergeant Sophie McGarel said Sussex Police, the local council and anti-gangmaster groups were helping to prevent any further exploitation at the site.
She added: ‘Labour exploitation is a concern in East Sussex, as elsewhere in the country, with reports of poor accommodation and no protective equipment being issued to workers.
‘In such cases, pay is often low and workers are expected to work for long hours. Discovery, with its partnership agencies, is responding to reports and using all available powers in order to seek to shut companies down where necessary.’
The Health And Safety Executive (HSE) put a Prohibition Notice on the building to stop workers from sleeping there again due to a lack of fire precautions, while a Notification of Contravention (NoC) was also issued.
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