Six arrested in human trafficking clampdown

POLICE in Greater Manchester have carried out an operation to safeguard children who may have been trafficked by organised crime groups.

On Monday 23 November 2009, police executed warrants in the Agnes Street area of Gorton and Stockport Road in Longsight.

Working with Manchester City Council, the aim of the operation was to identify and safeguard any children who may have been trafficked into Greater Manchester by Roma organised crime groups for exploitation and financial gain.

Operation Epee was also targeted at disrupting any organised crime groups at the heart of this exploitation.

Two men and four women, aged between 23 and 32, have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking. Fifteen children who were at the addresses are now being cared for by Manchester City Council Children’s Services.

Intelligence gathered from a number of sources, including the Metropolitan Police, the UK Borders Agency and the Romanian National Police, suggested that children were being trafficked out of the small Romanian village in Tandarei into the Greater Manchester area.

Every effort will be made to identify who children are and where they are from. Welfare and support will be offered to all the children involved in today’s operation.

There is a large Roma community settled in the Gorton/Longsight area of Manchester, with an estimated 1,000 people and 200 families.

The intelligence indicated the trafficked children are at risk of being subject to cruelty by neglect and being forced to commit low-level crimes such as cashpoint distraction burglaries, pick pocketing and begging.

Since the Roma community settled in Greater Manchester, a lot of work has been done by Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council to help them settle into the community.

Superintendent Paul Savill, who led the operation, said: “Today’s operation was about identifying any children who may have been trafficked into Greater Manchester and, with Manchester City Council, giving them the welfare they need.

“We had to take action today because our intelligence suggested some of these children were being exploited and forced to commit anti-social behaviour and low-level crimes, and we have a duty of care to protect and safeguard those children.

“This operation was necessary to uncover the extent of the problem and see if there is any evidence of organised crime groups operating here. The welfare of the children is paramount and we cannot allow anyone to exploit these vulnerable people and force crime rates up.

“I want to stress that this operation was not intended to stigmatise the Roma who are settled in our community. They have an absolute right to live here and we welcome them into our diverse community. The majority of families are integrating themselves in our community positively, and again I would stress this is not about taking people’s children off them, it is about determining which, if any children, have been trafficked and ensuring they are given the appropriate support.

“Both Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council have been working very hard to give support to the Roma community and help them adjust to living with the settled community in Gorton and the results have been positive.”

Manchester City Council Deputy Leader, Councillor Val Stevens, who has responsibility for community cohesion, said: “Manchester City Council has been working closely with the community along with GMP and partner agencies. We have supported the police throughout this operation and will continue to work with them and the families involved.”

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