LONDON (BNO NEWS) -- Five people were arrested during a raid in eastern England on early Sunday morning, police said. Two dozen people believed to have been held as slaves were rescued.
About 150 police officers raided a caravan site in the town of Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire during an early-morning operation. The 24 men, most of them British, were allegedly recruited from soup kitchens, benefits offices and other locations with the promise of accommodation and work.
Sky News reported that the victims were forced to work for no pay and lived in squalid conditions. Some of those found on the site are believed to have been held there for as long as 15 years, police said.
"Generally they were held in dirty, filthy conditions, hardly any food, no replacement clothing, as compared to their gang masters who were living in almost palatial backgrounds," Detective Chief Inspector Sean O'Neil from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crimes Unit told Sky News. "They were generally the most vulnerable people in society, who can disappear and be held here without anyone knowing they were missing."
About 28 people who had managed to escape from the site alerted police about the situation. Detectives said the victims were made to work as laborers on projects across Britain and even in Scandinavia.
The four men and one woman arrested, who are all Irish, are being questioned by police.