POLICE have freed 20 people forced to live crammed into disgusting living conditions in a Madrid restaurant closed to customers under the State of Alarm lockdown.
Among the multinational group officers found camping out at the premises in the San Blas district of the city, were two babies less than a year old, police reported.
Police launched an investigation into what was going on at the restaurant after detecting people had started to doss down there after it shut its doors due to the coronavirus crisis.
When officers went in they found Spaniards, Bangladeshis, Colombians, Filipinos, Peruvians, Portuguese, Venezuelans and Hondurans living in tiny areas not fit for human habitation.
There were mattresses on the bar, under the kitchen extractor fan and on the back terrace. Each living space was separated by cardboard or plastic.
According to police the business owner was trying to make up for being forced to close by making a buck out of people with few financial resources.
The victims were made to pay some €400 a month for an area no more than a metre and half long. If they couldn’t come up with the money they were put under pressure, denied access to basic services and made to sleep in even smaller spaces, like the toilet or a freezer chamber. There were even threats to infect them with coronavirus, police said.
The owner claimed he was a Covid-19 carrier and coughed and sneezed over the plates and other items if he found them eating.
Both the restaurant boss and the owner of the property, who police said was aware of what was going on, are under arrest. They face charges for abetting irregular immigration, coercion and crimes against public health.
Police also said the investigation remains open and they have not ruled there being others involved.