A major investigation into modern slavery in Doncaster has resulted in four arrests as police carry out raids across the area.
The British Red Cross was drafted in to help, offering practical and emotional support to those in crisis as part of the week-long operation.
Five raids were carried out at a number of properties, police have said, with agencies visiting more than 100 addresses to talk to potential victims, and four men have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and money laundering offences.
"We are committed to protecting the most vulnerable people in our society, and that includes, as was in this case, people travelling lawfully to the UK to seek employment," Det Sgt Stafford Megson, who led the operation.
“It’s an incredibly sad fact that some people deliberately look to exploit those people when they arrive into the country and even lure them to the UK under false pretences of a better life and employment.
“Through concerns raised regarding the possible exploitation of migrant workers within the Doncaster area, we have all acted quickly and positively to try and identify any offenders as well as protect and safeguard any potential victims.”
A number of agencies were involved in the operation, including South Yorkshire Police detectives and officers from the Anti-Slavery Unit, the National Crime Agency (NCA), Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Doncaster Council.
“The first phase of the operation was launched on Monday, when we conducted a number of warrants in relation to possible modern slavery offences and the exploitation of migrant workers," said Det Sgt Megson.
“After carrying out five warrants at a number of addresses, four men were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and money laundering offences.
“The entire operation didn’t solely begin on Monday though, our team, alongside partner agencies, have been working to gather intelligence and liaise with charities such as the British Red Cross, City Hearts and Ashiana, who are able to provide support to people, should they be identified as a possible victim of human trafficking.
“These agencies have been and continue to be invaluable to us in terms of safeguarding potential vulnerable people and providing them with any support they may need.”
Police and agency workers have visited more than 100 addresses in recent days to talk to people who could be victims of exploitation.
Lizzi Trueblood, British Red Cross operations manager for emergency response in the North of England, said: “The Red Cross was asked by South Yorkshire Police to provide practical and emotional support to anyone who needed it as a result of this operation, at a place of safety.
“Our trained staff have been on hand to provide emotional support, as well as practical necessities throughout the operation.
“The Red Cross works alongside emergency services across the UK to help those in crisis.”
The four men arrested have since been bailed pending further enquiries as the investigation continues.