Modern slavery 'significant problem' in NI

Image source, linephoto

Modern slavery and human trafficking is a "significant problem" in Northern Ireland, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

Thirty-four victims have been identified and rescued in the past year and 13 suspects have been arrested.

The figures were revealed by former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable and NCA vulnerabilities director, Will Kerr.

Mr Kerr warned that modern slavery was now so widespread that people would be coming into contact with victims daily.

He told the BBC's Evening Extra programme that in Northern Ireland there were 21 live investigations related to human trafficking and slavery.

The PSNI created its human trafficking unit early in 2015, a move Mr Kerr says put them "ahead of the curve".

Image source, Home Office

"The point of this campaign is to make people aware and get them to reflect on the fact that this is happening and that it is not acceptable in any society," he said.

"Increasingly, as you and I go about our daily lives at some point we are likely to encounter someone who is a victim.

"If something looks and feels wrong, if something just doesn't fit, please have a conversation with the PSNI and they will be more than happy to go out and investigate further.

"We have a collective responsibility to deal with this."

The NCA said that signs of abuse included anything that suggested someone was being controlled or coerced into work, such as:

  • the manner of their dress
  • visible signs of injuries
  • signs of stress
  • the manner in which they had come to work in a particular area

Mr Kerr said victims in Northern Ireland included people from Vietnam, Romania and China and have been forced to work in the labour industry and brothels.

They are often paid very little, if anything at all.

"Gangs know they can exploit the most vulnerable in our society and they do because they have realised they can make a profit repeatedly," he said.

"For example, they can make up to £600 per day from a young girl who is forced into the sex industry."

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