A SUSPECTED sex trafficker is led away by Border and Immigration officers after a raid at an alleged Sunderland brothel.
UK Border Agency staff executed a search warrant at a business in Foyle Street, Sunniside, which has become the centre of investigations into the trafficking of foreign women into the North East sex trade.
During a search of Tui Na massage, a 23-year-old Chinese woman was arrested and taken into custody for questioning.
Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “Raids like this show the UK Border Agency plays an important role in tackling criminal gangs, who exploit people for financial gain.
“We have a strong record of supporting victims, and through tough enforcement are stopping the UK becoming a safe haven for human traffickers who trade on misery.”
Yesterday’s raid was carried out simultaneously with one at the Chinese Medical Centre, in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, where two men and two women, also of Chinese origin, were arrested on suspicion of sex trafficking offences.
Another two women, believed to have been victims, were taken away from the premises and are being cared for. They have not been arrested.
Andy Radcliffe, who led the Border Agency team behind the raid, said: “The operation follows an extensive investigation into the suspected trafficking of foreign nationals into the UK sex trade.”
The raid in Sunniside, the historic heart of old Sunderland, shocked and surprised neighbours.
Workers in the area, popular with small businesses, looked on in confusion as officers descended on the sleepy cobbled street.
One businesswoman said: “It just shows, these things happen on your doorstep and you don’t know about it.
“I think this is one of the most beautiful streets in Sunderland, it’s a surprise for something like that to happen here.”
One man who works in Foyle Street said he and his colleagues had no idea what was happening when officers arrived.
“We’ve never noticed anything suspicious,” he said. “We’ve heard one or two things – just rumours really.
“But rumours are rumours. People say things and you never really know if they’re true.
“I suppose we’ll have to wait and find out.”
Anyone with information about immigration-related crime can phone independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or visit www.crimestoppers-uk.org.