Three arrested in large scale modern slavery operation

8 July 2020, 20:12

The North London industrial site police raided
The North London industrial site police raided. Picture: Met Police

By Maddie Goodfellow

Three men have been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery offences following a large-scale police operation targeting a farm in north London.

A total of 11 adults are being given support by specially trained officers after being found inside premises on a semi-industrial site in Crews Hill, Enfield, on Wednesday.

The Metropolitan Police said that, under a search warrant, an armoured lorry was among "sophisticated tactics" used to gain entry to the location which had "numerous security measures installed".

The force said that so far around £75,000 in cash has been seized, with the "comprehensive search" ongoing.

More than 150 people, including 100 officers from the Met's North Area Basic Command Unit, were involved in the operation.

It included staff from HM Revenue and Customs, the London Fire Brigade, Enfield Council, the Environment Agency, the National Food Crime Unit and immigration officials.

Footage of the modern slavery operation in Enfield

The three arrested men were taken to a north London police station where they remain in custody.

The 11 adults found at the location were escorted to a nearby reception centre for medical treatment and further care, police said.

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 threat of modern slavery and human trafficking (MSHT) as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

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."

11 adults were found inside the premises
11 adults were found inside the premises. Picture: Met Police

Detective Chief Inspector Richard McDonagh, from Central Specialist Crime, said the operation was part of an investigation into "the unregulated distribution of food" from the site.

He said: "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."

Mr McDonagh added: "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."

He continued: "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."

It is suspected that numerous victims have been exploited for the sake of forced labour
It is suspected that numerous victims have been exploited for the sake of forced labour. Picture: Met Police

Commenting on efforts to respond to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on modern slavery, Rob Richardson, head of the modern slavery and human trafficking unit at the NCA, said: "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."

To report a suspicion or seek advice people can contact the modern slavery helpline confidentially on 08000 121 700 all year round and 24 hours a day.