Police conduct dawn raids in bid to break slavery gang

Dawn raids by police have taken place across the North East in an attempt to break a modern-day slavery gang.

Officers forced their way into a number of houses after they received information that a suspected Lithuanian organised crime group were using victims to collect charity bags.

The men, having been trafficked from eastern Europe, were kept in shared accommodation with their wages and benefits controlled by the gang.

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Northumbria Police said six people had been arrested across Newcastle and Gateshead and they had taken 12 people to their victim reception centre.

Superintendent Steve Barron said: "Our priority is to safeguard vulnerable people in our region and victims of modern-day slavery, trafficking and associated offences are among some of the most vulnerable we will come across.

"Often individuals don't realise that they are victims and the small wage they earn in this country often exceeds anything they would earn in their home country.

"They are brought into the country on the promise of work, housed in sub-standard accommodation and their benefits and finances are all controlled by their employer.

"We do not believe that any of the charities involved would know that those collecting their bags were potentially victims of modern day slavery and human trafficking."

The police said a factory had been set up in North Shields, where the clothes would be processed and sold overseas, with a cut of the proceeds expected to go back to the charities.

Mr Barron said: "Modern-day slavery, trafficking and associated offences are a real challenge in the UK today but local forces like Northumbria will continue to work with national bodies to disrupt this type of criminality and safeguard those vulnerable individuals at the heart of it."