Twenty-four people believed to have trafficked and forced to work as modern slaves have been rescued from five nail bars in Southwark.
More than a dozen suspected gang masters were arrested after dawn raids culminated a five-month police investigation.
Officers say the nail bars are in Peckham High Street, Walworth Road, Camberwell Road and Rye Lane but have not yet given further details.
Nineteen adults and five children were found inside the nail bars. They are now being supported by specially trained officers and are receiving medical care.
It is believed the victims were trafficked from Vietnam.
Thirteen men and women were arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and modern slaving offences, with a fourteenth person arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.
All are in custody in south London police stations.
The names of the businesses and individuals arrested are not yet public.
The Met says the five-month operation began after police and Southwark Council received concerns over the welfare of workers in July 2019.
More than 150 police officers, immigration officials and charity, council and social workers were involved in the operation; both in collecting evidence and providing support to the victims.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Rogers, from the Met’s Central Specialist Crime, said: “I am pleased with the results of this multi-agency operation which was launched to safeguard vulnerable individuals, identify perpetrators of crime and ultimately protect the public.
“Human trafficking, modern slavery and sexual exploitation often occur in plain sight, and it is often the case those carrying out these offences exploit those from less fortunate backgrounds who have travelled to our county for a better life.
“They prey on the knowledge these individuals will carry out hard, labour-intensive work to provide for themselves.
“The Met is entirely committed to tackling these crimes and protect the most vulnerable of people in our communities.
“We will continue to work closely with our partners as we have on this particular operation, to target those involved in this criminality and prevent them from exploiting innocent individuals any further.
“I hope this operation continues to raise the public’s awareness of these shocking crime types, and sends a clear message to those involved that we will work with all agencies and law enforcement to identify and bring them to justice.”
Cllr Victoria Mills, from Southwark Council, said: “Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of the women, children and other vulnerable adults, caught up in this despicable trade.
“Our officers are working with the police, specialist Vietnamese charities, the Salvation Army, social care and other support staff, to help those who wish to access support.”
More to follow…