Arrests made as part of Anti-Slavery Day

18 Oct 2016 13:00 PM

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Northumbria Police has this monring (Tuesday) made 13 arrests as part of Anti-Slavery Day aimed at tackling human trafficking, labour exploitation and modern day slavery.

Officers carried out search warrants at five addresses in the Cowgate area of Newcastle. There have also been three further warrants at addresses in Houghton-le-Spring and Consett.

Eight men and five women have been arrested on suspicion of trafficking people into the UK for exploitation, they currently remain in police custody.

The searches were carried out by officers’ and police are working with Newcastle City Council, National Crime Agency, Crown Prosecution Service, Gangmasters Licensing Authority, British Red Cross, and Hope for Justice as part of the operation.

Two men and two women who are believed to be the victims of exploitation were also located during the searches and have been safeguarded by police and partners.

This is part of a UK wide coordinated response to identify and arrest those responsible for human trafficking.

Detective Superintendent Steve Barron, of Northumbria Police's Safeguarding Department, said: "This is part of an intelligence led policing response to a problem that is becoming more apparent across Europe and it is important that we are robust in our efforts to tackle this type of crime.

"This type of crime forces people through threats or coercion to work for little or no pay, or to pay off outstanding debts.

"The activity carried out today has been a truly multi-agency effort that has focused on helping vulnerable people and the four victims identified today have now been taken to places of safety so they can be supported by specialists from partner agencies and our officers.

"Protecting vulnerable people is the absolute priority for us and between us we will ensure victims are given the best care and support at this difficult time.

"Officers are conducting reassurance patrols in the areas where the search warrants have been carried out to keep them informed about the activity in this area."

Leader of Newcastle City Council, Cllr Nick Forbes, said: “Some might find it hard to believe that in the twenty first century we still have slavery, and it is all the more shocking to think that is happening right here in Newcastle.

“The council stands committed to tackling slavery and all forms of human trafficking which is why we have set up a reception centre to house the victims of this abhorrent crime. We will assess their housing and social care needs and put in place support to help them put their lives back together again.

“I would urge anyone who suspects that someone is being exploited in this way to contact the police and help us root out this barbarism.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, Vera Baird QC, said: “I welcome and encourage all efforts by Northumbria Police to tackle human trafficking – it’s not just something that happens in other countries, it is happening right here in the North East as these arrests demonstrate, and we must do all we can to help those caught up in such terrible circumstances.

“While there is no typical victim, those who are trafficked are mostly vulnerable and we must all work together to identify, free and support victims and to bring the criminal traffickers and everyone involved to justice.”

Martin French, head of the NCA’s Modern Slavery & Human Trafficking Unit, said: “UK law enforcement are working alongside Europol partners to tackle the threat posed by criminals who deliberately traffic men, women and children into conditions of sexual exploitation.

“Coordinated by the NCA, we are working with safeguarding services, business leaders, and charities to share ideas, intelligence and information to identify and take action against offenders, as well as safeguard the victims of crime.

“Tackling modern slavery is a priority for UK law enforcement. Working with national and international partners we will use all the tools available to us to rescue victims and tackle those responsible.”

Andy Peers, British Red Cross Head of Independent Living and Crisis Response in the North of England said: “At the request of Northumbria Police, the British Red Cross is providing support at a rest centre for people recovered by police from trafficking in the county.

“Our highly-trained staff and volunteers will be providing emotional and practical support on a 24-hour basis, throughout the week. This will include providing food and toiletries, along with any social and welfare support required.

“Nearly 21 million people worldwide are victims of modern day slavery. The British Red Cross is committed to continuing to provide support to those in need, alongside its partner agencies.”

Potential victims of modern slavery receive safe, secure and appropriate accommodation and support through the Adult Victims of Modern Slavery Care & Coordination Services Contract, which is delivered by The Salvation Army.

Major Anne Read, The Salvation Army's Director for Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said: "The Salvation Army is working with Northumbria Police to support potential victims of modern slavery. It is vital that victims receive immediate access to specialised support and their needs are assessed. Once they have been identified as victims of modern slavery The Salvation Army ensures that they have access to support and accommodation at a safe house if needed."

Hope for Justice’s European Programme Director, Neil Wain, said: “Hope for Justice is committed to eradicating this barbaric crime. We have been working closely with Northumbria Police, as well as other police forces and agencies around the country, on rescue investigations and operations and also on specialist training for officers to improve their capacity to identify potential victims and respond.

“It is now vital to ensure those rescued get the support and aftercare they need. Ending slavery and bringing the traffickers to justice will require exactly the kind of multi-disciplinary, multi-agency approach we have been part of during this complex, intelligence-led investigation.”

Anyone with concerns about crime and human trafficking where they live should contact their local neighbourhood policing team on 101.