Northern Ireland

Human trafficking: '20 victims rescued' in County Armagh

human trafficking girl generic
Image caption The victims are all Romanian and include 14 men and six women

Twenty potential victims of human trafficking have been rescued in the past week in County Armagh, police have said.

The victims are all Romanian and include 14 men and six women between the ages of 20 and 48.

Three men, aged 23, 27 and 31, have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking, forced labour and slavery and money laundering.

They are being questioned at Antrim police station.

Two buildings were also searched and three vehicles have been seized.

Police said the victims were found at two locations in County Armagh following an investigation into labour exploitation.

Additional translators have been flown in from England to help gather information.

Det Insp Todd Clements from the PSNI Organised Crime Branch said: "This has been a fast-moving and complex operation which may continue for some time.

"The 20 people we have identified as potential victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation are in places of safety now. Our inquiries are continuing."

'Hot spot'

Stormont Justice Minister David Ford congratulated police on the rescue.

"The trafficking of a human being for profit is a heinous crime and should not be tolerated in any community," he said.

"I welcome the action by the PSNI which has led to the rescue of 20 potential victims of human trafficking in County Armagh and would urge all members of the community to be vigilant to this terrible crime."

DUP assembly member Lord Morrow, who is sponsoring a private members' bill on human trafficking and exploitation through the Northern Ireland Assembly, said he would be "closely monitoring the situation".

He said: "It is impossible to avoid the fact that Northern Ireland has been seen by those behind this incident as a hot spot for slavery and the degradation of human beings through forced labour for financial gain.

"This is deeply troubling and something which I remain committed to eradicating.

"I remain convinced current laws are insufficient to deal with this appalling and inhuman crime."

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