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Two dozen modern day slaves held in appalling conditions were rescued when police raided a travellers’ camp yesterday.
Hundreds of officers stormed the site where the men were being kept in filthy caravans, dog kennels and horseboxes.
Some were starving. The vulnerable victims had been lured from soup kitchens, benefit offices and hostels with promises of paid jobs and shelter.
Instead they became slaves after their “masters” beat them into submission, stole their possessions and shaved their heads.
They were put to work in gruelling manual labouring jobs including paving driveways and clearing rubble because they were deemed cheaper than hiring machinery.
At least one man had been kept as a slave for 15 years.
Investigators are now working to uncover the true scale of the horror amid speculation that there may have been hundreds of victims.
Five travellers - four men and a woman - from the site were arrested for offences under anti-slavery legislation introduced last year. Three more suspects were being hunted last night.
But police are facing searching questions over why they did not act sooner after it emerged that claims of slavery at the site were first made three years ago.
Twenty-eight men have come forward with such allegations since 2008.
The slavery ring was uncovered at Greenacre caravan site, a long-established travellers’ site in Billington, near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire.
Police believe a gang of Irish travellers are behind the shocking racket. They said some victims were kept in kennels and horseboxes.
Detective Chief Inspector Sean O’Neil, who led the dawn raid, said: “The men we found at the site were in a poor state of physical health and the conditions they were living in were shockingly filthy and cramped.
“They were in sheds or old caravans. We believe that some of them had been living and working there in a state of virtual slavery, some for just a few weeks and others for years.
“One person, we know, has been here for 15 years, so to him this is normal life.”
“They were told by the people who had brought them here, ‘You have no family now, we are your family’. If they wanted to leave they were threatened.”
The raid followed months of undercover surveillance and investigation after police were tipped off by several slaves who escaped.
It is believed to be the first time that police have used the new laws to target an illegal work camp of this kind.
More than 200 officers, including marksmen and dog handlers, raced on to the site supported by a police helicopter and human trafficking experts at around 5.30am.
The operation took place on a Sunday because it was the only day of the week the slaves were not taken off the site to work. They were forced to clean the site instead.
The victims were mostly British men with psychological and addiction problems. One victim was a suicidal man who had been “rescued” from the edge of a bridge with promises of a better future.
Police said the men were offered £80 a day to work as well as lodging.
But on arrival at the site they had their mobile phones taken away and, in a shocking echo of wartime concentration camps, their heads shaved.
At 5am each day they were taken in vans to labouring jobs across Britain. Some were taken as far as Scandinavia for work.
They had become used to existing on such meagre rations that police said it could be dangerous to suddenly give them a lot to eat.
Of the 24 men being held at the site, 17 were British, two were from Romania, three from Poland and two from Russia.
Victims were yesterday taken to a medical reception centre where they were assessed by doctors. Two shabby caravans used to house some of the men were removed by police to be scoured for forensic evidence. Other “accommodation blocks” were cordoned off.
Several thousand pounds in cash, believed to include profits from work undertaken by the slaves, was also found
A police spokesman said: “They had been found in soup kitchens and benefit offices and told they would be given work clothing a home and fed.
“We heard in one case a man had been sitting on the parapet of a bridge ready to commit suicide when he was spotted by this gang and brought here to the site after being promised paid work and a roof over his head. It was all lies.
“They were there so machinery didn’t have to be hired and they weren’t paid a penny.” - Daily Mail
What is more shocking is that this kind of exploitation would be expected in the third world and not in Britain or any of the first world countries... am certain worse forms of slavery still exists in Africa, especially in the farms of Cape Town, South Africa.
this was a waste of padlock why they didn't use one
What is truly shocking is that none of the people who employed them, or 'free' people who worked with them, took this awfulness to the authorities!
Good ol fashioned work!
@lion do you have to go thump your bible on a story that has nothing to do with religion? Get a life! The Lord is not coming, he or she or it has better things to do than fulfill your religious fantasies.
Where did this evil took place.We are defenitely sur- rounded by dark deep evil (sin)in this world.Truly the LORD is coming.
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