It’s incredible in 2011 to hear that five people have been arrested under the Slavery and Servitude Act after twenty-four men believed to have been held against their will and forced to work were freed from a caravan site in Bedfordshire where they were made to work in to ‘filthy and cramped’ conditions

Officers believe a number of people were being held against their will – some for as long as 15 years – and being forced to live in squalid conditions and work for no pay at the Greenacre caravan site. More than 200 officers raided the site at 5.30am on Sunday, releasing the 24 men, who were taken to a medical centre.
Dog-handling officers, helicopter and firearms support units were on hand to execute search warrants. The five arrests were made under the Slavery and Servitude Act 2010, and the suspects held at police stations across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Police also said that weapons, drugs and money were also found at the site.
Detective Chief Inspector Sean O’Neil, of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire major crime unit, 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.
“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 up to 15 years.” Police were assisted by officers from the UK Human Trafficking Centre.
“Because of the number of victims and suspects and the size of the site, we needed the assistance of many officers from specialist units today,” O’Neil said. “We are aware the operation has caused a lot of disruption to the other residents of the site and we thank them for their co-operation and understanding.
“A small number of officers are remaining at the site to complete searches and to liaise with the residents. The offences that are being investigated are extremely serious.”
The thing that stands out about this story is that it happened in England. Not some third world country or somewhere where human rights are generally ignored, but England and secondly, that some people were believed to have been there against their will for 15 years. Someone, somewhere must have known something. Is this a sign of the times that we as a nation are losing the moral courage to speak up and say, “I think there may be something wrong there” or have we become a nation that has learned to ignore or simply turn a blind eye because it doesn’t concern us.
To plan and execute a multi agency operation with 200 officers takes a lot of justification as well as time and money. It will be interesting over the coming days to see what intelligence lead the Police to Greenacre Caravan Site and over what period of time the intelligence had been gathered. More importantly it begs the question, “How many more “Greenacre Caravan Sites” are there currently operating throughout the UK?