Two sex-trafficked women rescued by police in Norwich
PUBLISHED: 15:26 20 November 2019 | UPDATED: 16:15 20 November 2019
Two women believed to have been trafficked to the city for sex have been found in Norwich as police moved to smash an international criminal network.
During the early morning raid in the city on Tuesday a 28-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and money laundering.
Simultaneously homes were raided in Essex, Newcastle, Stoke and Romania.
It was part of an operation led by South Yorkshire Police, in conjunction with the Romanian authorities, targeting a cross-border human trafficking ring.
The teams were also supported by local police, the National Crime Agency, and specialist operations units from the north and east of the country.
At an address in Ilford, Essex, two women aged 23 and 36, and three men, two aged 30 and one aged 34, were arrested. A 33-year-old man was arrested at a property in Newcastle.
Two men, aged 38 and 19, were arrested at a house in Stoke-on-Trent and the 28-year-old man at a house in the Norwich.
All have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and money laundering and have been taken to police stations in the area where they were arrested for questioning.
Eight women, aged between 18 and 30, were identified as being potential victims of trafficking. They have been taken to a place of safety and will be provided with immediate care and support. Two were identified in Norwich.
Similar activity took place in Romania while the UK warrants were being executed, resulting in the arrest of a 37-year-old man.
Det Insp Claire Mayfield, leading the investigation for South Yorkshire Police, said: "A key part of today was also about identifying potential victims of trafficking and providing immediate safeguarding.
"The people we identified today were taken to places of safety where they were offered immediate, practical support. As the investigation progresses, they will be spoken to and offered the relevant long-term support."
The Romanian Ambassador in the UK, Dan Mihalache, said: "This is the second time during only the last week, when the British police and the Romanian Police have joined efforts to dismantle a suspected organised crime group believed to be exploiting young women.
"I praise the work of the Romanian police and South Yorkshire Police, who have proved today that together we can be more powerful and we can make our communities safer.
"It is a new example of our zero tolerance crime policy embraced by both states and I assure the Romanian community in the UK that we will not curb efforts for a safer environment for all."
Anyone with concerns should call either 101, 999 in an emergency or speak to the 24/7 Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.