Seventeen foreign workers allegedly being exploited in the fishing industry were discovered in a major police operation.
Premises in Annan and elsewhere in the country were raided on Wednesday morning.
The workers found were from Indonesia, Sri Lanka and The Philippines and welfare and support arrangements are being made for them.
Police yesterday described it as an “ongoing investigation” and have not revealed if arrests were made.
More than 150 police and officials from a variety of partner agencies took part in the swoop on businesses, homes and fishing vessels in Annan as well as Silloth and Peterhead.
The operation was mounted in response to allegations of labour exploitation in the fishing industry, primarily for illegal cockle fishing which has been a huge problem in the region with gangs using foreign workers to harvest the shellfish.
Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary led the raids supported by a range of partner agencies including the United Kingdom Border Agency and Border Force, The Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, Serious and Organised Crime Agency, Maritime and Coastguard Agency, and Marine Scotland.
Chief Superintendent Gary Small said: “Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary, with assistance from various partner agencies, executed a number of search warrants at business and residential premises as well as fishing vessels in Annan, Silloth and Peterhead.
“I can confirm that we are currently co-ordinating welfare and support arrangements for 17 foreign nationals located during this morning’s searches. These individuals came to the UK from The Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia to work in the fishing industry.
“Given we are at an early stage of a large scale and complex enquiry, I am not in a position to comment further in relation to the specific nature of the allegations being investigated at this time.
“We are grateful for the assistance provided by a large number of partner agencies in this morning’s activity.”
Local politicians have welcomed the operation.
Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said: “Illegal fishing in our area has been a major problem recently and it is right that the police and other agencies clampdown on the exploitation of foreign workers by criminal gangs in our area.
“It sends a clear signal to criminal gangs that their actions will no longer be tolerated.”
Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown added: “The people the gangs use to illegally fish are risking their lives out on the Solway Coast.
“These are dangerous waters at any time, but especially since they usually operate at night and we need to prevent them being exploited.”