Two Romanians who flagged down police late at night on a rural Cambridgeshire road led to four arrests for modern day slavery.
Ten suspected victims of modern slavery are being safeguarded after police later went to farm buildings across the Bedfordshire border.
Police officers were flagged down by two men on a rural road on the Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire border at around 9.30pm on Friday (26 June).
Police visited the address the men had come from and established that 13 men and a pregnant woman were staying at the property. All those at the property had travelled to the UK from Romania.
Ten of the people were subsequently safeguarded and taken to a reception centre. All 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.
Subsequent enquiries were then made by police alongside the Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) at an address in Lincolnshire, where a number of further potential victims were identified.
A woman in her 40s and a man in his 30s were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and remain in police custody.
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Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Glynn said: “An excellent response and teamwork by our officers and partners has resulted in 10 suspected victims of modern slavery being safeguarded.
“Sadly, we know that modern slavery and exploitation is going on all around us. Bedfordshire’s transport links and demographics make us particularly susceptible to it – almost 400 potential victims were identified in the county last year, the fifth highest of all UK police force areas.
“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.”
GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Jennifer Baines said: “Protecting vulnerable workers is our top priority and taking decisive action with partners is key in ensuring that potential victims of exploitation are safeguarded and given the support that they need.
“Modern slavery and labour abuse sadly exist in communities across the country. 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 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.” Anyone with information or concerns about modern slavery can call 101. Call 999 if there are immediate concerns.
You can contact the GLAA via gla.gov.uk or call 0800 432 0804.
Alternatively you can also report things anonymously and in confidence to the Modern Slavery Helpline via 08000 121 700.