An investigation into modern day slavery offences at a Gateshead factory will continue today after four men arrested by police were released under investigation.
On Wednesday morning Northumbria Police raided the factory, based off Nest Road on the banks of the River Tyne, after receiving concerns about the welfare of staff employed there.
Following a health and safety visit to a connected premises, concerns were reported to police and officers began to carry out enquiries into the business.
On Wednesday they carried out a raid at the property and four men - aged 42, 41, 40 and 29 - were arrested on suspicion of offences under the Modern Day Slavery Act.
An estimated 90 employees were taken to a reception centre nearby where they were provided with support and spoken to by officers to establish if they are victims of exploitation.
Workers at the site were of a number of different nationalities but the majority of those taken to the reception centre were Eastern European.
Today officers at Northumbria Police have confirmed that the four men arrested have been released under investigation and that enquiries into slavery offences will continue.
Inspector Michael Robson said: "This was a significant operation and we felt it necessary to speak to more than 90 employees at the factory to establish if any offences have taken place.
"The majority of those working at the factory are not believed to be victims but we do have concerns about some individuals and have been providing them with support.
"Investigations of this nature take time but we have had the opportunity to interview four men arrested yesterday on suspicion of modern day slavery offences.
"They have since been released under investigation but our enquiries will continue in the coming weeks as we review all the potential evidence we have collected."
Inspector Robson added: "Safeguarding vulnerable people is our top priority here in Northumbria Police and the size of this operation underlines that commitment.
“These types of operations are not possible without the support of our partners and Gateshead Council in particular have been very supportive of the operation.
"I have no doubt that residents in Gateshead will be shocked to hear about suspected slavery offences on their doorstep but this type of offending does exist.
"There are individuals out there who are trafficking workers into this country and exploiting them for their own financial benefit and we will work hard to put that to a stop.
"We need everyone to be alive to the fact that people are being put into servitude in our local communities. Everyone has a role to play in helping to stop this offending.
"If you have concerns that a person or group of people may be victims of slavery then please contact police or ring the Modern Slavery helpline. Your action could end up saving a life."
A reception centre was facilitated by Gateshead Council, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the British Red Cross yesterday but it has since been closed down.
Anyone who has information that may assist the police investigation is asked to call police on 101 quoting log 140 24/04/19 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone with concerns about slavery offences where they live can also report information by calling 101, reporting it online at www.northumbria.police.uk or by calling the Modern Slavery helpline on 08000 121 700.