A husband and wife are among three people arrested following dawn raids by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and Merseyside Police into an alleged Modern Day Slavery network in north-west England.
Forty one vulnerable workers were also supported by specialist officers and the British Red Cross following the action in Liverpool early yesterday (8 March).
GLAA investigators, supported by police and the National Crime Agency (NCA), executed warrants at a dozen residential addresses across the city. At one house a cannabis farm was discovered while large amounts of cash were also recovered.
The husband and wife - a 28-year-old man and 32-year-old woman – were held along with a 34-year-old man for questioning on suspicion of Modern Slavery offences, including forced labour and trafficking. They have been released under investigation.
All the suspects are Romanian.
The GLAA and Merseyside Police were acting on intelligence which alleges migrant workers from Romania are being trafficked into the UK and forced to work. It is also alleged many are given false names and have no choice as to when and where they work.
GLAA Senior Investigating Officer, Martin Plimmer, said: “This operation once again demonstrates the GLAA’s capability to take action to disrupt alleged criminality and labour exploitation. Those who believe they can exploit people, use them as commodities and profit from their misery, need to understand that they are a priority target for us and our enforcement colleagues.”
Detective Chief Inspector Cheryl Rhodes from Merseyside Police said: "The GLAA and Merseyside Police has been working closely together and this matter has been under investigation since last July; the partnership working has been crucial in order to execute these warrants today.
“Offenders involved in human trafficking prey on extremely vulnerable people, often people who have come into the UK, do not know the language and are desperate to provide for themselves and their families. The offenders callously exploit that desperation for their own ends, and we are determined to put a stop to that.
“We want local people to be the eyes and ears of their communities. If you suspect something isn’t right, please trust your instincts and pick up the phone – it might be nothing, but one phone call could be all it takes to change somebody’s life for the better and ensure justice is done.”
John Morris, British Red Cross director of independent living and emergency response in the North of England, said the charity was “on hand to provide practical and emotional support to anyone evacuated as a result of this operation, in a place of safety.
“Our trained staff and volunteers are on hand to provide emotional support, as well as practical necessities such as clothing, refreshments and first aid. The Red Cross works alongside emergency services across the UK to help those in crisis.”
Merseyside’s Deputy Police Commissioner, Cllr Emily Spurrell, said: “Slavery was abolished more than 180 years ago in this country. Yet there are still organised, criminal gangs who are exploiting people in the most inhumane ways, and it is taking place in our communities. Yesterday’s well-planned and successful operation demonstrates this will not be tolerated in Merseyside and, if information is received to suggest people are being abused in this way, action will be taken. My thanks to everyone involved in this operation.”
Those taken to a place of safety can choose to enter the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) - a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking or modern slavery.
Anne Read, Director of Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army, said: “All potential adult victims are offered support from The Salvation Army under a Government contract and should they wish to receive the assistance, then they will receive immediate access to specialised support, such as counselling, interpretation services, legal and immigration advice, medical and financial assistance, and safe house accommodation if needed.”
Anyone who suspects slavery or trafficking offences are happening in their community is urged to call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700 or report suspicions to the GLAA on 0800 432 0804.