WOMEN allegedly being forced to work as prostitutes were found during a police raid on a brothel. 

Officers stormed a “spa and massage” business in Uckfield yesterday, finding naked clients and two Chinese women, who they believe are victims of modern slavery. 

Police believe the women were being exploited through “debt bondage” and pictures from the scene of the raid in Mill Lane show a number of massage beds within the property.

The Argus:

An undercover detective involved the raid said: “This is one room for clients.

“There was a young girl – Chinese girl – in here and a client who was naked when we entered.

“One of the young ladies who we found here has told us her story. She’s extremely distressed and we are offering her support.”

The Argus:

The force believes the women may have been tricked into working for little or no money to repay a debt.

They were recused from the property and are now being offered support through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which identifies victims of exploitation and provides ongoing support. 

The men found inside the building during the raid have been released without charge. 

The Argus:

A charity worker described the moment they found the women inside the brothel. 

Jean Bovell-Strachan is from Streetlight, a charity which helps women in prostitution to reclaim control of their lives.

She told the BBC: “Once we entered the property and [they] realised who we were and what we were doing, there was probably an element of relief that there’s going to be no more clients today.”

The Argus:

Speaking about human trafficking in general, she said: “They will eat in that room, they will sleep in that room, they have all their clients in that room – it’s like a prison cell.”

Police say that East Sussex Project Discovery executed a warrant to search the address, as well as a nearby flat, with documents and cash being seized from the premises.
Detective Sergeant Sophie McGarel said: “The operation follows reports from the public that women of apparent Chinese background have been offering sexual services, and the national intelligence picture shows that women are being exploited by human trafficking gangs around the UK for sexual work. 

The Argus:
“This action is part of our ongoing work to uncover the problem of modern slavery that can affect any part of the country. We work with our partners in Discovery Team to expose hidden crime and safeguard some of the most vulnerable people within our communities. Modern Slavery exists within our local communities and this is another example of the public recognising the signs and reporting it to us”.

The Discovery Team in East Sussex brings together local police officers, fire officers, Stop the Traffik Hastings, King’s Church, local councils, Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue and Customs, Home Office Immigration, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, all with the aim of seeing victims of modern slavery rescued, supported and perpetrators brought to justice.

The operation comes as Sussex Police run a two-week public awareness campaign to remind local communities of the risk of modern slavery in their midst, and how they can help to spot the signs and combat it.

For further advice and information on spotting signs of modern slavery and how to report it, see the Sussex Police website.