Cornish flower farm workers protest against boss's slavery arrest

Steven Morris and agency
Police at the farm in Manaccan, near Helston in Cornwall. Photograph:

Scores of migrant flower pickers have protested outside a Cornish police station demanding the release of their boss who was arrested during an anti-modern slavery operation.

Workers from Romania and Lithuania arrived at Camborne police station in minibuses and called for the release of their employer, claiming he was a good boss and their working conditions were fine.

However, police said 14 men and women who worked at Bosahan farm in Manaccan, on the Lizard peninsula, had asked for help and support.

Officers arrested two men, aged 61 and 41, at the farm on Thursday on suspicion of modern slavery offences. A 49-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being an unlicensed gangmaster.

Devon and Cornwall police said: “Around 200 migrant workers at the farm had their welfare safeguarded by Cornwall council with support from the Salvation Army and the British Red Cross.

“Of these, 14 men and women believed to be aged between 20-40 have elected to seek help through a national referral mechanism which means that potential victims are offered support.”

But on Thursday night some workers descended on the police station, claiming they worked in good conditions.

Marin Alina-Florentina, from Romania, said all the workers lived in caravans on the farm.

She said: “Our boss has been arrested and we think he has done nothing wrong. We have very good conditions.

‘’I’ve been working here for four years. If it was bad I wouldn’t work here, we wouldn’t bring our friends and families here. Without our boss we don’t have any work. We’ve not been told anything. We just know the boss is under arrest.”

The crowd dispersed when one of the arrested men was released. On Friday police said all three men had been released under investigation pending further inquiries.

The chief constable of Devon and Cornwall, Shaun Sawyer, said people were within their rights to protest but added that the workers themselves may not be fully aware of all the allegations against their employers.