Private Members Business - Human Trafficking
Date: Tuesday, 07 February 2012
Mr A Maginness: I thank the Member who proposed the motion. I also thank the Member who proposed the amendment, which the SDLP supports. The amendment enlarges on this very useful motion and brings in an added dimension of international protocols and European law. That is important in dealing with the problem. The problem is an international one, but, specifically, it affects both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland as well as Britain. It is important that we add that European dimension and strengthen co-operation between North and South. I know that there is good co-operation between the Gardaí and the PSNI on the issue, and I hope that that can be usefully developed to prevent the transiting of people from one jurisdiction to the other. Northern Ireland is used as a transit point for the importation and trafficking of people to the South and to Britain and vice versa. Unfortunately, as Anna Lo pointed out, Northern Ireland has also become a destination point for human traffickers. That is a very disturbing development.
The Police Service’s figures show a significant increase in the recovery of victims of human trafficking. There are not large numbers, but those figures indicate that the problem is, in fact, increasing. We should be concerned about that.
I thank Mr McNarry, who originally brought the issue to the House some time ago. He had the prescience to see that human trafficking was a growing problem. It is important that we keep a firm eye on the issue and see what further resources we can add to the fight against what Anna Lo has called “modern-day slavery”.
It is good to note that there was a recent conviction in relation to human trafficking. That highlights the issue and indicates the purposeful way in which the PSNI is attempting to deal with this problem. I reject any criticism of the PSNI in this area. It has made considerable efforts to try to deal with the problem and has trained and specialist officers to deal with people who find themselves in such difficulties.
One of the issues that needs to be looked at carefully is the national referral mechanism. We need to see how we can strengthen that mechanism, so that genuine victims of human trafficking can be given assistance, support and help to deal with the trauma of being trafficked. We can then try to integrate them into our community and give them worthwhile work, training and education. However, alternatively, if they genuinely — I emphasise that point — want to be repatriated, we can ensure that that is done in a humane and supportive manner, so that those vulnerable people are not simply sent back to the people who originally exploited them.
Many of the people who have come here did so under the false impression that they would get work. They did not know that their ultimate destination would be criminal exploitation. So, it is very important that we reassure people who are in such a position that they will be given and that they will be able to co-operate with the authorities in dealing with the criminals who organised their exploitation and trafficking.