As part of an on-going investigation concerning the exploitation of ‘manual labourers’ a pre-planned multi-agency operation led by North Wales Police took place this morning at a number of locations in the Deeside area . North Wales Police supported by officers from the National Crime Agency were joined by colleagues from the Local Authority, Social Services, the Health Authority and British Red Cross following complaints that at least two young men had been held virtual ‘captives’ for a significant period of time by a number of people and forced to perform unpaid manual labour at locations across the UK.
DCI Neil Harrison at North Wales Police who led today’s operation ‘on the ground’ said “As a result of this morning operation we have safeguarded, or simply put, freed, at least three people who are now being assessed at a ‘Reception Centre’ within the county by a number of organisations. Health, Social Services, the Red Cross as well as the Local Authority and BAWSO will check their medical and welfare needs and provide relevant support where necessary. Specially trained Police Officers will speak with them all to ascertain what levels of criminality they may have been subjected to.’
“One local man has been arrested for Human Trafficking Offences and will be interviewed by detectives later today. Another man will be ‘voluntarily’ interviewed at a later date. Their offences relate to recent complaints we have already received from two men alleged to have been held and forced to work, against their will for up to three years. During the course of this morning’s searches we have also recovered a firearm and stolen property and this will also form part of our investigation.”
“Further offences may also come to light as we conduct methodical searches of all the locations as well as interview those safeguarded this morning. Some of the conditions the victims have been living in that we witnessed this morning were utterly appalling and our colleagues in the Local Authority will look into this matter further. I’m grateful for the continued patience and understanding of the local community whilst the operation continues. We hope to return the respective areas to normality as soon as practicable but I’m sure the public will support our strong stance against such abhorrent crimes.”
This morning’s operation is part of North Wales Police Operation Scorpion, the force’s continued fight against serious and organised crime in the region and specifically human exploitation. Overseeing today’s action under Operation Zeren is Chief Superintendent Sasha Hatchett who added “It is sometimes a common misconception that modern slavery is an issue for other parts of the world. The reality is that human trafficking exists right here on our doorsteps in communities across north Wales. Forced labour is very often over-looked in terms of modern slavery but research and experience tells us it is one of the most prevalent aspects of Slavery, and like all forms of slavery it wrecks lives.”
“I want communities to know that North Wales Police and all our partners take the plague of Modern Slavery very seriously and will professionally and robustly safeguard all victims, regardless of their origin, and vigorously pursue those responsible for perpetrating these vile acts. Tackling Modern Slavery is one of our top five priorities but we can’t do this alone and we need our communities to be our eyes and ears. There are many signs and forms of Modern Slavery and I’d encourage the public to familiarise themselves by visiting our website and if you suspect someone is a victim then please let us know immediately as you could be saving a life.”
“Further information can be found by visiting the Modern Day Slavery Web Site https://modernslavery.co.uk Finally I would like to personally encourage anyone who may have any suspicions regarding this type of crime to make contact with us and we will do all that we can to assist you.”
North Wales Police has further information on its modern slavery website at www.north-wales.police.uk/advice-and-support/stay-safe/modern-slavery.aspx.
If you suspect slavery is happening near you please report it to police on 101, anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700 or BAWSO on 08007318147.
The victim help service is available from 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-5pm on Saturdays. It can be contacted by Freephone on 0300 3030159, by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the websites www.victimhelpcentrenorthwales.org.uk or www.canolfangymorthiddioddefwyrgogleddcymru.org.uk