GLA helps uncover trafficking operation
GLA helps uncover & lsquo;trafficking’ operation
Seven people were arrested and 11 potential male victims of human trafficking identified as part of a joint operation involving the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
Five arrests resulted at about 7.30am yesterday when Derbyshire police executed four warrants in the city with the assistance of the GLA and representatives from the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s UK Human Trafficking Centre.
Searches were carried out at two addresses in Sunnyhill Avenue, another was executed at a house in Balfour Road, while a fourth was carried out at a house in Cameron Road.
A 35-year-old man and a 37-year-old woman were arrested at a house in Amber Street, which police also visited as part of the operation. A 40-year-old man, 41-year-old woman and 22-year-old woman were arrested at the Cameron Road address.
The 41-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and money laundering. The other four were all arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit human trafficking, fraud and money laundering. All remain in custody this morning and are being questioned by officers.
The 11 potential victims, who police believe have been trafficked into the UK from Eastern Europe, were found at the houses in Sunnyhill Avenue and Cameron Road.
The men were taken to a special reception centre where they were cared for by Derbyshire County Council, Derby City Council, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
Later in the day, detectives arrested a 21-year-old man and a 41-year-old woman at a house in Violet Street on suspicion of conspiracy to commit human trafficking and money laundering, taking the total to seven. All suspects remain in custody.
Officers suspect some victims’ details may have been used to claim benefits fraudulently and that some of the victims may have been sent to work at different locations in the city. Detectives are working with the Department for Work and Pensions and the GLA as part of the investigation.
GLA Chief Executive Paul Broadbent said: “Once again I’m pleased to hear that through working closely with partner agencies we have hopefully now removed these men from a position of exploitation and played a significant part in attempting to tackle those we suspect are involved in serious criminal activity.
“Forced labour is a deeply concerning and increasing crime trend among organised crime networks and as such it remains at the very top of the GLA agenda. This operation demonstrates that by pooling resources and expertise we can have an impact on those involved in thus deeply unpleasant practice.”
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Callum said: “We are at the early stages of this investigation and we are working with several agencies as part of the inquiry and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the men we believe to be victims.
“Human trafficking is a serious offence. In many cases, people are brought into the UK and are promised the chance of a good job and a better life. But this often turns into exploitation where victims are made to work with little or no pay and without money and the correct documentation, it can be very difficult for them to escape.”
Liam Vernon, Head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre at the Serious Organised Crime Agency, said: “We suspect the people arrested were involved in the trafficking of Eastern European men into the United Kingdom for labour exploitation and were using them to claim benefits fraudulently.
“Investigating trafficking for labour exploitation is a challenge to us all as victims are kept locked away and unseen by society. Since 2009, more than 1,000 men, women and children have been reported to the centre. They were being used for their labour in many different ways, all for the financial gain of the traffickers.
“We will continue to work with our partners to bring offenders to justice and protect vulnerable members of our society. I urge anybody with information than can lead to the identification and rescue of a victim of trafficking to share it with the police.”
Major Anne Read, The Salvation Army's Anti-Trafficking Response Co-ordinator, said: "The Salvation Army is working with Derbyshire police and other agencies to rescue and support potential victims of trafficking. It is vital that victims of trafficking receive immediate access to specialised support.
“We have a team ready to assess the needs of the victims and ensure that they have access to accommodation and support at safe houses if needed.”
Barbara-Anne Walker, Red Cross Operations Director for Derbyshire, said: “British Red Cross volunteers are trained to provide practical and emotional support to people in a crisis.
“We are responding to the individuals’ welfare and giving them the practical help they need, such as providing clothing, hygiene items, emotional support, and recreational activities.
“We are also providing first aid cover and assisting with registration and refreshments. We are providing a 24/7 presence for the duration of the rest centre.”