Police have arrested six people and safeguarded another 10 after the discovery of potential modern slavery victims at a Bedfordshire farm building.
Two men flagged down police on the Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire border last Friday (26 June).
When they visited the men’s address, police found 13 men and a pregnant woman from Romania at the property.
Ten of them were taken to a reception centre and have been offered support under the national referral mechanism for victims of modern slavery.
Two men in their 40s and two men in their 20s were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and have been released on bail, pending further enquiries.
Bedfordshire Police Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Glynn said: “Sadly, we know that modern slavery and exploitation is going on all around us.
“We are doing all we can to protect victims and dismantle the organised crime groups behind this exploitation, whether they exploit people through the sex industry, county lines drug dealing or in sectors such as agriculture or construction.
Bedfordshire’s transport links and demographics have made the area particularly susceptible to modern slavery.
Bedfordshire Police say almost 400 potential victims were identified in the area in 2019, making the county the fifth highest of all UK police force areas.
“This is a stark reminder that the abhorrence of slavery still exists and I would urge people to get in touch with us if they have any suspicions,” added DCI Glynn.
The findings at the farm building also identified further potential slavery victims in Lincolnshire.
A woman in her 40s and a man in his 30s were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and remain in police custody.
“Modern slavery and labour abuse sadly exist in communities across the country,” said Senior Investigating Officer at the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) Jennifer Baines.
“In the last year alone, we identified more than 15,000 potential victims of exploitation, which highlights the scale of the challenge we face in tackling the problem.
“Joint operations such as this are therefore crucial in not only rescuing some of the most hidden and at risk people in society, but also disrupting the often organised criminal behaviour behind the exploitation.
“We would strongly encourage the public to be aware of the signs of exploitation, especially in these unprecedented times, and more importantly report their concerns to us and our partners.”
You can also report any suspicions of modern slavery anonymously and in confidence to the Modern Slavery Helpline via 08000 121 700.
You should call 999 if there are immediate concerns.