Trafficking is not new. The BBC exposed the trafficking and exploitation of European nationals on farms here in 2002. Our land border with puts us in a unique position in the UK. Cheap direct flights mean that we are a gateway to both the GB and the Irish Republic. As there is more scrutiny of arrivals in London and Dublin, regional ports and airports are now favoured routes. In the scoping study, The Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland, 2009, the authors said that the problem was difficult to quantify, with victims often reluctant to admit the nature of their situation. They quoted a law enforcement officer who described the three types of trafficking.
… if we were to put it in [some] order, I’d say at the moment in Northern Ireland forced labour is the biggest problem with trafficking, followed very closely by sexual exploitation, and third would be domestic servitude.
These categories can be blurred. For example, people in domestic servitude or forced labour may be subject to sexual exploitation. Extreme labour exploitation occurs in many sectors, with reports of debt bondage, and of workers exploited in care homes, with passports retained by employers.
Recent Developments in Brief
- In March 2009, new N Ireland support services were launched along with the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Specialist PSNI officers were to be trained to debrief rescued people, and all front-line police officers trained to recognise the key indicators that people may have been exploited.
- There has been criticism of the local arrangements for looking after victims in a number of reports (see below).
- The PSNI has rescued significant numbers of people: 25 in 2009–10; 23 in 2010–11; and 33 in 2011–12 and in 2012 there was the first local conviction when Hungarian national Matyas Pis changed his plea to guilty of trafficking, brothel keeping and controlling prostitution.
- In 2013 there were 1,746 referrals to the NRM of which 41 were referred from N Ireland, 25 female and 16 male: a 173% increase on 2012. www.nationalcrimeagency.gov.uk/publications/139-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-2013/file
- There were at least 12 referrals relating to child trafficking 2009 – 2012. niccy.org/downloads/2014/Publications/Guardianship_reports_Feb_14/NICCY_Guardianship_main_report_-_Feb_14.pdf
- The Department of Justice NI (DOJ) the Visitor or Victim campaign, 2010, featured a poster and leaflet in nine languages encouraging trafficked people to come forward.
- An All-Party Group on Human Trafficking was formed at Stormont in 2012
- In October 2012 the DOJ and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) published guidance on the care of adult and child victims of human trafficking.
- At the end of 2012 the Justice Minister hosted the first meeting of an NGO Engagement Group comprised of representatives from public bodies and NGOs.
- In April 2013 The Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) brought N Ireland into line with the criminal aspects of the EU Directive on Human Trafficking. Traffickers operating internally within the UK are no longer immune from prosecution and trafficking offences prosecuted in N Ireland now have a maximum sentence of 14 years imprisonment.
- In 2013 the DOJ also published its first annual trafficking action plan.
- In August 2013 the Justice Minister launched an educational resource pack for post primary pupils.
- In September 2013 the DOJ produced a leaflet, Human Trafficking: Know Your Rights, in eight languages to signpost potential victims to sources of help.
- The Justice Minister announced, in January 2014, that he had held bilateral meetings with the leaders of the four main churches and said that
Churches are a significant part of our community and can play a vital role in identifying and reporting trafficking and exploitation where it occurs or is suspected.’ www.dojni.gov.uk/index/media-centre/news-archive/january_2014/ford-meets-with-church-leaders-to-discuss-human-trafficking.htm
Read about DOJ NI initiatives and statements on human trafficking online.
Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill
A Private Members Bill on human trafficking was initiated by Lord Morrow in September 2012. Some proposals have been welcomed widely, especially those relating to the provision of protection and services for victims. Clause 6 (previously Clause 4) proposes making it illegal to pay for sexual services. This has been praised by some people, but others feel it blurs the issue of prostitution and trafficking and there is anxiety about outlawing prostitution without putting in place supported exit strategies for those who will lose their livelihoods. Making payment for sex services illegal would follow the example of Sweden (the Nordic model). Other European countries, including the Republic of Ireland seem likely to follow and some argue that if the UK does not do likewise it will become more attractive for people who want to continue to earn money from sexual exploitation.
In January 2014 Justice Minister David Ford and Lord Morrow wrote jointly to the NI Justice Committee explaining that they had managed to come to agreement on the bill. A synopsis of the bill’s clauses can be found online.
Reports and Consultations on Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland
Human Trafficking and Slavery: Strengthening Northern Ireland’s Response. Consultation on the UK Modern Slavery Bill, January 2014.
Consultation on the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill
NI Council for Ethnic Minorities, Briefing Document: Analysis of Current Responses to Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland, 2012
Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) Report concerning the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by the United Kingdom, 2012,
Law Centre NI consultation response to GRETA, 2012.
Michael Potter and Leigh Egerton. NI Assembly Research and Information Service Research Paper: Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland, 2012.
Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group’s, Wrong Kind of Victim, 2010. Summary Report Full Report
Sarah Toucas and Anne Caughey, The Nature and Extent of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland, Institute for Conflict Research, 2009.