Children removed in Ilford people-trafficking raids

Twenty-eight children have been placed in police protection after officers targeted a gang of suspected child traffickers based in east London.

Police raids in Ilford, Redbridge, found children between three and 17 years old. Seven people were arrested.

The main aim was to safeguard potential victims of a Romanian-based Roma gang of child traffickers, police said.

A Met spokesman said the children would have been forced to beg and steal on London's streets by their handlers.

A boy, three, was taken to hospital with bruises and facial injuries.

Three people were held on suspicion of assault and neglect of a child, two on suspicion of benefit fraud and two because they were wanted on warrants.

'Gross violation'

In total 103 children and 52 adults were found at 16 addresses in Ilford.

Six of the children - all from the Romanian Roma (Gypsy) community - were found at one address alone.

Police said they received the co-operation of the Romanian authorities.

Ch Insp Colin Carswell said: "The trafficking and exploitation of children for forced criminality is a gross violation of their human rights.

"These children are exploited by gangs and in some cases their own parents. Many parents are told by the gang they can earn money if they give up their child to be taken abroad."

Ch Insp Carswell continued: "The gangs loan them money to pay for the trafficking.

"This is at an extremely high interest rate, and it can take many years to pay off gangs, with increasing numbers of the children and even entire families becoming entrapped as debt slaves."

The Met said profits were sent back to Romania to build large houses and purchase expensive cars.

'Ruthless gangs'

Heads of criminal networks were said to possess large amounts of cash.

Kit Malthouse, deputy mayor for policing in London, said: "It is impossible to imagine British children being sent overseas and forced into criminality to survive, but this is a sad reality for the young Romanian kids in our city who are controlled by ruthless gangs.

"We are sending the message out loud and clear that child trafficking is utterly unacceptable and must stop.

"The heads of the criminal networks in Tandarei [Romania] should be warned we are closing in on them."

In April, UK police helped Romanian authorities arrest 26 people allegedly belonging to an organised gang in Tandarei, south-east Romania.

They face charges in the Romanian courts of trafficking and exploiting 181 children, being members of an organised criminal network and money-laundering.

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