Three arrested as 20 suspected victims of human trafficking are rescued
TWENTY suspected victims of human trafficking have been "rescued" by police.
Three men were arrested in Northern Ireland as part of the operation into alleged labour exploitation.
All 20 of the potential victims - 14 men and six women - were from Romania. They ranged in age from 20 to 48.
They were removed from two locations in Co Armagh.
The police operation has been running since last Wednesday but details were released by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) only tonight.
The PSNI has liaised with the UK Human Trafficking Centre and a number of agencies to ensure the suspected victims are safe.
Additional translators have been flown to Northern Ireland from England to cope with the number of people involved and the volume of information required to be processed.
The three suspects, aged 23, 27 and 31, were arrested in counties Armagh and Antrim.
They have been detained and are being questioned at the PSNI's serious crime suite at Antrim police station on suspicion of human trafficking, forced labour and slavery, and money laundering.
Two properties have been searched by officers and three vehicles seized.
Detectives from the PSNI's crime branch have also been liaising with the Gangmaster Licensing Authority as part of their investigations, which are linked to food production.
Detective Inspector Todd Clements said: "This has been a fast-moving and complex operation which may continue for some time. The 20 people we have identified as potential victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation are in places of safety now. Our inquiries are continuing."
It is understood that police do not believe any employers in the area have been complicit in any trafficking or labour exploitation.