British police raid site where 24 men were kept as slaves
Men at soup kitchens enticed by promises of money, free housing
British police reportedly raided a caravan in Bedfordshire on Sunday and found 24 men kept in slave-liked conditions for up to 15 years.
The police freed the men, who had been kept in "shockingly filthy and cramped" conditions, and arrested five people on suspicion of committing slavery offenses, BBC reports.
The raid, which involved more than 200 officers, took place at the Greenacre travelers' site in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire
"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," said Detective Chief Inspector Sean O'Neil, as reported in BBC.
"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."
The men were from England, Poland and Romania, the Guardian reports.
The detective told the Independent that the men were found at soup kitchens and benefits offices and enticed to go to to the travelers' site with the promise of money and free board and housing. Once they got to the site, their hair was cut, they were forced to stay in "horse boxes, dog kennels and old caravans," and they were forced to work for nothing.
Britain outlawed slavery more than 200 years ago, but the practices of forced labor and forced prostitution still exist.
"Coercion is used to bring people into the country to work in the sex industry or do other types of forced labor," Paul Donohoe of Anti-Slavery International told the Independent. "Some are told they are coming to work in a café and only find out they are being exploited when they arrive. Others are paid a nominal wage, from which is deducted money they are told they owe; most commonly they are told they are paying back the cost of transporting them to Britain."
There are about 5,000 people in Britain who have been trafficked for forced labor or prostitution, according to anti-slavery activists.
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.