UK police release four Vietnamese men enslaved at ‘vast’ cannabis farm

By VnExpress   February 27, 2017 | 11:51 am GMT+7

The four were found working in a nuclear bunker where there was no natural light, fresh air or running water.

Four Vietnamese men have been released by police in the U.K. after they were found working at a cannabis farm last week

An investigation found they had been trafficked and forced to work in slave-like conditions, the Guardian reported.

During a midnight raid on February 22, police in Wiltshire in southwest England found three Vietnamese teenagers and one adult in his 30s working at a vast marijuana farm inside a former nuclear bunker.

An age assessment put the three teenagers at about 19 years old. They were all released on Friday and were told no further action would be taken against them, the report said.

Three British men were charged on Friday with conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiring to hold another person in slavery or servitude.

Paul Franklin from the Wiltshire police force said, as cited by the Guardian, that the four gardeners were victims. “No one would do this by choice.”

He explained that there was no natural light, no fresh air and no running water. “This was slave labor… We have never seen anything on this scale.”

His team found several thousand plants in the bunker’s 20 rooms, estimated to be worth more than $1.2 million.

The Vietnamese men, who spoke no English, had been “very fearful and apprehensive” when they were arrested, he told the Guardian.

Police are trying to figure out how long the four workers had been held there and whether they were able to come and go freely or were locked inside the bunker, which was built in 1985 to serve as a government headquarters in the event of a nuclear attack.

“We believe they had no choice. I think they were held there in human-trafficking, slave conditions,” Franklin told the Guardian.

Around 3,000 Vietnamese children are in forced labor in the U.K., many of whom end up in nail salons and illegal cannabis farms, according to local official figures.

Earlier this month a U.K. court overturned a 10-year sentence for a Vietnamese man on cannabis charges after judges found he was a victim of human trafficking.

Last month, people in Scotland also found a 16-year-old Vietnamese boy who was running from a human trafficking gang. Police said he would have been forced to work on a drug farm.

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Vietnamese teen flees human traffickers in Scotland: report