09/12/2011 03:05 EDT | Updated 11/12/2011 05:12 EST

Slave labour camp busted in Britain

British police discovered 24 men at a suspected slave labour camp north of London, many of them malnourished and housed in "shockingly filthy and cramped" conditions.

Police raided the Greenacre caravan park in Leighton Buzzard around 5:30 a.m. Sunday where they found the men of various age and ethnicity being kept in horrible conditions, according to a news release on the Bedfordshire Police website.

Five residents of the site — four men and one woman — were arrested under the Slavery and Servitude Act 2010. Inquiries to locate two further suspects are underway, police said.

Det. Chief Insp. Sean O'Neil from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit said the men in the camp were in poor health when they were found and that some had been there for years.

“The men we found at the site were in a poor state of physical health and the conditions they were living in were shockingly filthy and cramped," O'Neil said, "We believe that some of them had been living and working there in a state of virtual slavery, some for just a few weeks and other for up to 15 years."

The arrests came upon a lengthy investigation based on information that suggested people were being held against their will at the site and forced to work without pay.

The suspects are being held at police stations across Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, with the exception of the woman. According to the Bedfordshire police, the woman is pregnant and was released on bail but will be questioned again after the impending birth of her child.

The 24 men found were taken to undisclosed medical centres and treated for physical maladies.

Some of them have since been released and are refusing to help police with the investigation, while 15 others continue to be medically assessed Monday for a variety of things such as extreme malnutrition, according to police.

The BBC reported that the men were recruited from soup kitchens and job centres. Their heads were shaved and they were given little food.

All the men were of British or Eastern European background.

The oldest man found was 57 and the youngest was 17, the latter of which has rejoined his family, according to police.