Police have rescued 24 men who were being held in a “state of virtual slavery” in the Green Acres caravan site, Leighton Buzzard. The 200-strong police raid took place in the early hours of the morning on Sunday 11 September.
The men, aged between 20 and 50, were emaciated and exhausted.
The police have arrested four men and one woman under the slavery and servitude provisions of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
Detective Chief Inspector Sean O’Neil of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire major crime unit said the conditions the men had been forced to live in were “shockingly filthy and cramped”. They had no access to running water, toilets or washing facilities.
He described it as a “recruitment centre where people down on their luck were brought to”. The men are all vulnerable adults, such as alcoholics and homeless people, who were recruited and brought to the site on the promise of work, pay, food and a bed.
Instead it is alleged they were forced to carry out heavy manual labour from 7am to 7pm and were only given meagre and insubstantial rations. They faced violence and threats of violence against them and their families if they complained or said they wanted to leave.
The men come from Poland, Romania, Russia and the UK. Those with irregular immigration status were threatened with being reported to the police if they tried to leave.
The police began their investigation with the help of the UK Human Trafficking Centre after they were tipped off about the site from suspected former victims.
The 24 men are now receiving medical attention.
The five who have been arrested could face up to 14 years in prison if they are found guilty of holding a person in servitude or up to seven years in prison if found guilty of exacting forced labour.
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