A major operation took place in Sussex on Monday to find victims of modern slavery and the criminals who exploit them.

It is thought across the country, thousands of people are working in appalling conditions, often for less than the minimum wage, or for nothing.

They could potentially be illegal immigrants, they could be English people, the homeless, people that we have on the street can often be exploited in the construction industry. It also works around your fruit packers, your factory workers."

AMANDA SNASHALL, Sussex Police

Officers targeted vans taking people to work on building sites during roadside checks along the A21, south of Robertsbridge.

The operation followed weeks of intelligence gathering.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Modern slavery can take many forms and involve many different industries.

It is a highly-organised crime which forces vulnerable people to live and work in appalling conditions.

Multiple agencies were involved in Monday's crackdown, including members of King's Church Hastings and Bexhill.

It's actually really difficult to rescue victims of slavery. Often they've been told that the police can't be trusted. Often they've been told that actually it's going to be worse for them or that they're going to be arrested themselves because they've committed a crime for example. "So actually again that's why it is a partnership operation. That's why organisations like the church are involved because we're here to say, actually if you don't trust the police there are others around and we are here to offer compassion and pastoral support."

NATALIE WILLIAMS, King's Church Hastings & Bexhill
13,000

people are victims of modern slavery in the UK

3,250

of those are children

If the public do see somebody and they think it doesn't feel right, that person is always here, they never seem to have a rest, they seem to be working more hours than they should. It's really important that they do report it to the police."

KATY BOURNE, Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner