Agencies in Newcastle are working together in response to modern slavery in the City. Today, a joint operation between Northumbria Police, Newcastle City Council, Changing Lives and the British Red Cross has resulted in the arrest of three suspected human traffickers and four women being safeguarded.
The raids were the culmination of weeks of intelligence gathering as part of an investigation into modern day slavery and trafficking offences. Enquiries led police officers to believe that organised crime groups had arranged for women to travel to the UK from Eastern Europe.
The investigation found the vulnerable women, most of whom were from Romania, were being housed in cramped accommodation and then coerced or forced into sex work. Organised criminals would take possession of their passports, documentation and control their financial income.
But now four women have been moved to the safety of a reception centre where they will receive health checks and be offered tailored support by police and key partners in the city.
Three men arrested for modern day slavery and trafficking offences are currently being held in police custody.
Detective Inspector Graeme Barr has led the investigation for Northumbria Police and said victims are often lured to the UK with the promise of a better life.
He said: “We know that human trafficking and modern slavery is taking place in our region and we are committed to safeguarding victims.
“This investigation is specifically about sex work and exploitation but we have also investigated many labour exploitation and criminal exploitation cases in the North East in recent years.
“Slavery is happening on our door step and we need everyone to be vigilant so that we can do everything we can to bring those organised crime groups to justice.
“These individuals prey on vulnerable people trapped in poverty in their home country and promise them a better life in the UK with the prospect of employment.
“But the reality is that life is not waiting here for them and the life they are forced to live is nothing like what they were promised, instead confined to poor conditions with no control over their own actions.
“Some of the women we have safeguarded today may not even realise they are victims but they will now receive the level of care and support they need.
“If you are concerned that this is happening in your community then please tell us and with your help we can help bring more vulnerable people to safety.”
David Hall, Assistant Director of Regulatory Services and lead for Community Safety at Newcastle City Council, said the local authority will help support any victims identified by police.
He said: “Victims of modern day slavery are forced to live their lives under the control of others and we are determined to work with our partners in the city to protect and support people who are subjected to this horrific exploitation.
“Operation Newmarket has seen suspected offenders arrested and victims brought to safety, which is an excellent outcome for all organisations involved. However, it is equally important that operations such as this raise awareness of a very real issue in our society.
“We want Newcastle’s neighbourhoods to be safe for everybody and would urge anyone who suspects this kind of criminality to be taking place in their community to contact the police immediately.”
You report modern day slavery concerns to Northumbria Police (report online or by telephoning 101/999) or you can report via safeguarding procedures. Please see our report a concern page for more details.
You can find out more about modern day slavery in the UK at www.antislavery.org.uk