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Kept Captive by Hotel Guest for 8 Months, 17 Women 'Freed'
 from the Most Luxurious Hotel in Brussels

By Vijay Dutt, Hindustan Times, New DelhiMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

July 4, 2008 - LONDON -- Seventeen women were "rescued" by police and officials of the Labour Audit Authority, from the most luxurious hotel in Brussels, the Conrad Brussels, where European royals and prime ministers stay during EU summits. A report in The Times said the women were made to wait hand and foot on a widow of an emir from the United Arab Emirates and her four daughters.

According to the newspaper report, 17 women were found from countries including the Philippines, Morocco, India, Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Syria. The police operation on Tuesday involving over a dozen officers and was described like a scene from a Hollywood movie, followed amid allegations that the women had been "enslaved" and kept captive for eight months.

A senior diplomat of the Indian embassy in Brussels told HT that the mission had not been contacted as yet by the authorities. "In such matters it could take days before we are informed." He added that if the passports of the Indians found during the raid were in order, the Embassy might not be informed at all unless the women wanted some help from the mission.

The family had hired the entire fourth floor comprising luxury rooms each costing £260 a night and was staying for over eight months. A Filipino maid, who managed to escape from the hotel, triggered the raid.

The women claimed that they were kept as prisoners and forced to work as cleaners, servants and cooks after their passports were taken away. They were reportedly paid less than £80 each month and had to be on call 24 hours a day and not permitted to step out of the hotel. One young woman from the Middle East reportedly told police, "We were not allowed to leave the hotel and we had to be at their disposal 24 hours a day. We were not allowed to complain or to ask any questions. We just had to be there at their beck and call."

The police have questioned by police. No charges had been brought until Wednesday but the investigation was continuing. "We are convinced that these 17 girls are victims of people trafficking," one official said.

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To see more of the Hindustan Times or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.hindustantimes.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

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