Pair arrested in swoop on ‘slave labour’ trade

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Two people have been arrested by police investigating the alleged exploitation of eastern European men suspected of being forced to work in “slave-like conditions” in the food industry.

A man, 52, and a woman, 50, from the Maidstone area of Kent, were held yesterday on suspicion of human trafficking for labour exploitation offences, Kent Police said.

The arrests were made following an multi-agency inquiry into claims that workers from Lithuania were being forced to live in squalid conditions and threatened with violence if they failed to comply with instructions.

Liam Vernon, deputy head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) at the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), said: “We suspect the people arrested were involved in the trafficking of Lithuanian men into the United Kingdom for exploitation within the food industry.

“It’s alleged that the men, who will now receive specialist care and support from Soca’s vulnerable persons team and the Salvation Army, were subjected to slave-like conditions and controlled through the use of violence.”

Detective Inspector Keith Roberts, of Kent Police, said the arrests formed part of an extensive investigation by Kent Police, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and UKHTC.

“It follows on from reports received that migrant workers have been made to live in poor conditions and forced to work in an environment that gave little or no regard to their safety or general well-being,” he said.