Detectives have carried out a large-scale operation targeting those believed to be involved in modern slavery offences.
A search warrant was carried out at a farm in Crews Hill, Enfield on Wednesday, 8 July. Sophisticated tactics were deployed including the use of an armoured truck to gain entry to the venue which is located on a semi-industrial site with numerous security measures installed.
Three men were arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences. They were taken to a north London police station where they remain in custody.
Today’s operation involved more than 150 individuals, including around 100 officers from North Area Basic Command Unit. They were joined by colleagues from HM Revenue and Customs, London Fire Brigade, Immigration, Enfield Council, Environment Agency and the National Food Crime Unit.
A total of 11 adults were found inside the premises. They are being supported by specially trained officers and have been escorted to a nearby reception centre where they will receive medical treatment and further care.
A comprehensive search is currently taking place. So far, around £75,000 in cash has been seized.
The operation forms part Project Aidant – an initiative being coordinated by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA). It aims to identify and respond to the changing modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) threat as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Detective Chief Inspector Richard McDonagh, from Central Specialist Crime, said: “This activity forms part of an investigation into the unregulated distribution of food from this site. It is suspected that numerous victims have been exploited for the sake of forced labour. It was crucial police intervention took place in order to protect those we believe are being exploited and arrest those suspected of forcing them into labour.
“This operation took place at a semi-industrial site, which brings its own hazards. The planning has been meticulous and it was only possible with the support of an extensive partnership network and I am grateful to all our partners for their support.
“Victims of modern slavery rarely see themselves as such, so it’s important that where offences are suspected every effort is made to prevent further exploitation. We have specialist officers and support networks who will provide the necessary care to the victims we have identified today.
“Modern slavery and human trafficking are often hidden in plain sight. We need the public to recognise the signs and report their suspicions to the Modern Slavery Helpline or the police.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel, said: “Through the hard work and co-operation of law enforcement and immigration agencies, we have helped to disrupt a gang suspected of the most heinous exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable people.
“We will not stop in our commitment to tackle these abhorrent crimes by bringing perpetrators to justice using the full weight of the law and ensuring that victims get the help they need.”
Rob Richardson, Head of the Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking Unit at the National Crime Agency, said: “Tackling modern slavery is one of our highest priorities, and we are determined to work with our law enforcement partners to pursue offenders and protect victims. The National Crime Agency, alongside the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority, is leading a law enforcement intensification period across the UK, including London, to identify and respond to the changing modern slavery and human trafficking threat picture as a result of COVID-19.
“It is likely that restrictions on movement and activities are having a notable impact on the MSHT threat in the UK. There have been anecdotal reports of displacement from public-facing sectors that have been closed as a result of government measures, such as car washes and nail bars, to high-risk sectors of agriculture and the wider food supply chain such as this factory.
“Since 2017, the NCA has led a series of multi-agency operational intensifications on different aspects of the MSHT threat, which has resulted in over 770 arrests and the safeguarding of over 1,200 potential victims.”
Modern slavery could be happening in your community so it’s important you know the signs that could indicate someone is a victim of this crime:
– Does the person look unkempt, malnourished or injured?
– Do they look anxious or afraid, or are they refusing to make eye contact?
– Are they doing long hours, wearing unsuitable clothing or have the wrong equipment for the job?
– Is where they are living overcrowded, poorly maintained or are the curtains always closed?
– Do they behave like they’re being instructed by someone else, picked up/dropped off at the same time and place every day or don’t have access to money or identification?
If you recognise any of the above signs and suspect someone may be a victim of modern slavery, tell someone. You will always be taken seriously and protection and support is available.
To report a suspicion or seek advice you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700. This is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You can also report it to police online or call us on 101 at any time to report an incident. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service on 18001 101. Should you wish to remain anonymous you can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Jennifer Baines, said: “Today’s successful operation demonstrates the need for targeted partnership working to identify, disrupt and dismantle the organised criminal networks exploiting vulnerable workers.
“Modern slavery and labour abuse sadly exist in industries across the UK, so it is really important for the public to be aware of the most common signs of exploitation and report their concerns to us or our colleagues in law enforcement.”
A Government Agency Intelligence Network (GAIN) (London) spokesperson, said: “By working in partnership, sharing intelligence lawfully and efficiently, the GAIN aims to ensure that government agencies along with police will help reduce the risk, threat and harm from serious and organised crime, in the most cost effective way. Today’s action follows months of collaborative hard work by GAIN who are dedicated to dismantling crime networks which benefit from inflicting misery on communities.”