British police rescued 17 men, women and children from exploitation in northern England as part of an investigation into human trafficking, authorities said today.
A three-day, multi-agency operation involved visiting 25 addresses across Leeds, in northern England, to help families identified as potential trafficking victims, West Yorkshire police said.
The operation - backed by 60 police officers with the support of health agencies and the local council - brought three men, four women and 19 children from addresses mostly in the south and west of Leeds to a reception centre, where they were given access to relevant agencies.
Of that group 17 people - mainly from Slovakia - were then referred into a national framework aimed at identifying human trafficking victims and making sure they receive protection and support, police said.
Many were living in "very poor housing conditions" with "little if any income," Detective Chief Insp. Andy Williams said. Others were having their benefits taken from them and forced to work long hours for little or no pay, he added.
Thirty-three other people approached during the operation "preferred not to cooperate and remained where they were," police added.
Police said eight people have been arrested and bailed as part of the investigation launched in September into a criminal gang though to be behind human trafficking, benefits fraud and labor exploitation. Police hope to make further arrests in relation to the investigation, Williams added.