Twelve men have been arrested on suspicion of trafficking after a multi-agency operation led by Greater Manchester Police and Home Office Criminal Investigations.
Eight women and seven children, believed to be victims of trafficking, were also taken to specialist Victim Reception Centres after officers attended a number of addresses across the South Manchester and Trafford divisions on Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 July.
The aim of ‘Operation Portsmouth’ is to identify and safeguard women and children believed to be victims of human trafficking for the purpose of exploitation.
Detective Inspector Denise Pye said: “This multi-agency approach has allowed us to improve our ability to identify and safeguard vulnerable victims of trafficking and we will continue this joint approach in the future.
“Tackling the problem together and progressively with other regions and countries will help us disrupt the networks behind this criminality.
“It is vitally important not only to disrupt the criminal elements involved, but also to protect the vulnerable and safeguard both existing victims and those at risk of becoming future victims.
“This is just the beginning of the operation, as Programme Challenger will continue to engage the wider networks of serious and organised criminality involved in human trafficking and modern slavery across Greater Manchester and the region.”
Operation Portsmouth is led by Greater Manchester’s Programme Challenger and involves Greater Manchester Police, Home Office Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations, the National Crime Agency, NHS, Social Services and The Red Cross.
The operation is a result of this intelligence sharing, revealing a potential network of people across south Manchester facilitating organised immigration crime to enable people to remain in the UK illegally.
GMP’s Modern Slavery Co-ordination Unit is a collaboration of organisations across Greater Manchester, gathering and sharing intelligence in order to detect incidences of forced labour and human trafficking – and protecting the victims involved.
Twelve men aged between 25 and 41 were arrested and have subsequently been bailed pending further investigations. Officers are also investigating whether sham marriage offences have been committed.
Home Office investigator Ben Thomas, from Immigration Enforcement Criminal Investigations, said: “We work closely with the police to investigate immigration and modern slavery crimes.
“People trafficking is a vile trade, and we are determined to disrupt the gangs behind it and protect the victims of this evil crime.”