Thirteen people have been arrested on suspicion of modern slavery following a series of early morning raids by West Midlands Police today (25/01).
Officers carried out simultaneous swoops on residential premises in Handsworth as part of an investigation into the exploitation of eastern European workers.
The force acted on intelligence that people were being brought into the UK; then offered out to work and receiving low pay as ‘gangmasters’ receive a cut of their wage.
The warrants were executed at addresses in Farnham Road, Headingly Road, Heath Road South, Westbourne Road in Handsworth. Officers also stopped a minibus carrying suspected slavery victims in Westgate, Aldridge.
A total of three men and two women from Poland have been safeguarded this morning and taken to a reception centre where they will be given an opportunity to speak to specially trained officers about their circumstances.
Nine men and four women – aged 18 to 60 and all Polish nationals – have been arrested on suspicion of slavery offences and taken into custody for questioning.
Sgt Phil Poole, from the force’s modern slavery investigation team, said: “These raids were carried out as a result of intelligence and illustrates our intent to stop cruel individuals making cash off the misery of others.
“There is no place for the exploitation of people and we will not hesitate in taking firm and decisive action to stop this.”
Today’s operation saw the force work alongside a variety of partner agencies including the Red Cross, National Crime Agency (NCA) and Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA).
GLAA Senior Investigating Officer Andy Davies said: “This was a well-planned and hugely successful operation and we were proud to assist West Midlands Police with the preparatory work, the arrests and in supporting the alleged victims.
“Early indications suggest that a legitimate employment agency may have been infiltrated by an organised criminal gang.
“I would urge all labour providers – with or without GLAA Licences – to remain vigilant about their supply chains and recruitment practices so they too do not get caught out.”
Those safeguarded will have the option of supporting a criminal complaint and then be referred through the National Referral Mechanism. Anyone identified as a victim is helped into alternative accommodation in partnership with the Salvation Army.”
Daniel Collins, senior emergency response officer for the British Red Cross in the West Midlands, added: “Our highly trained staff are providing refreshments, first aid and emotional support to people brought to the rest centre by West Midlands Police.
“Red Cross staff will be available to run the rest centre for as long as they are 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, visit the website www.modernslaveryhelpline.org or call West Midlands Police on 101.