A CAR wash in Barnsley has been closed by police investigating links to organised immigration crime and illegal working.

Oakwell Hand Car Wash, on Pontefract Road, was the target of the latest police operation in the town.

It comes after a series of targeted operations across the county which led to dozens of arrests.

Over 40 car washes – at least five of which were in Barnsley – nail bars and pop-up brothels were visited, and over 60 houses, vehicles and HGVs were searched with suspected links to organised immigration crime and illegal working across South Yorkshire.

This resulted in the arrest of 48 people and the closure of four car washes in Barnsley, Rotherham and Sheffield – and the issue of an immigration fine to a car wash employer of up to £60,000.

Detective Chief Inspector Anna Sedgwick said: “We know that unregulated hand car washes are often linked to wider organised crime groups and involved in the production of drugs, human trafficking, money laundering, child exploitation, as well as organised immigration crime.

“The results from our operations demonstrate that modern slavery is happening within our communities – it’s happening in broad daylight and in places many of us visit as part of our everyday lives.

“We found that employers are exploiting their workers with most being underpaid or working in poor conditions and we have seen a high volume of illegal workers present.

“Exploitation can take many forms and there is no typical victim of modern slavery.

“Victims can be men, women and children of all ages and from many different countries.

“However, it is more prevalent amongst the most vulnerable, minority or socially excluded groups in society.

“Often workers are forced to work illegally and against their will, working long hours and often in hard conditions.”

As part of the operation, police also seized £1,400 worth of counterfeit vapes, over 100 cannabis plants, £3,000 of cash and four vehicles, all believed to be linked to modern slavery and exploitation.

Multiple potential victims of modern slavery and exploitation were also safeguarded and offered appropriate support and advice.

“Our work developing the intelligence picture surrounding offenders and disrupting criminal activity persists,” DCI Sedgwick added.

“I urge anyone with concerns to tell us straight away to help us identify potential victims, protect and safeguard the vulnerable and pursue the criminals exploiting them.

“If you suspect someone is being exploited, or you feel that you are being exploited, we are here to help.

“Please report to us, we will listen, you can help us tackle modern slavery in South Yorkshire.”