flower pickers

The 11 victims of human trafficking were forced to work as flower pickers

Seven people have been arrested and 11 potential male victims identified as part of a human trafficking operation within the flower-picking and meat trades, according to the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

Derbyshire police confirmed that five arrests were made yesterday after assistance from the GLA, the Department for Work and Pensions, and representatives from the Serious Organised Crime Agency's UK Human Trafficking Centre.

Four women and three men, with ages ranging from 21 to 41, were all arrested yesterday (15 July) on charges ranging from suspicion of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, fraud and money laundering. All remain in custody and are currently being questioned by officers.

The 11 eastern European victims were found in houses in Sunnyhill Avenue and Cameron Road in Derby, and have since been taken to a local Red Cross-backed reception centre to receive care.

Paul Broadbent, CEO of the GLA, said: “Forced labour is a deeply concerning and increasing crime trend among organised crime networks and as such it remains at the very top of the GLA agenda. This operation demonstrates that by pooling resources and expertise we can have an impact on those involved in thus deeply unpleasant practice.'

In an exclusive interview with theFPJ,Broadbentrecently pledged to crack down on worker exploitation and 'human slavery' within the fresh produce industry.

Liam Vernon, head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre at the Serious Organised Crime Agency, says the victims could have been used to fraudulently gain benefits income. He added: “We suspect the people arrested were involved in the trafficking of eastern European men into the United Kingdom for labour exploitation and were using them to claim benefits fraudulently.

“Investigating trafficking for labour exploitation is a challenge to us all as victims are kept locked away and unseen by society. Since 2009, more than 1,000 men, women and children have been reported to the centre. They were being used for their labour in many different ways, all for the financial gain of the traffickers.'