PSNI support Anti-Slavery Day and raise awareness of the hidden crime.
The number of people in Northern Ireland, who are victims of modern slavery – an umbrella term used for slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking – is unknown. The nature of the crime means it often goes undetected.
Today is Anti-Slavery Day and PSNI’s Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) has been carrying out a number of operations in criminal, sexual and labour exploitation throughout the week to highlight this often unseen crime and keep people safe.
Last year, 36 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in Northern Ireland and referred to the National Crime Agency but the actual number of people in Northern Ireland affected by the crime is unknown as it often goes unreported and undetected within the community.
Speaking from an operation at George Best Belfast City Airport, Head of PSNI’s MSHTU Detective Chief Inspector Mark Bell said: “Modern slavery is often an unseen crime as victims can be afraid to speak out or may be being held captive. Victims may be trafficked in from other countries and may have language barriers which prevent them from communicating with police or others who could help. The airport may be the first place in Northern Ireland that some victims step foot on and other victims may be being moved through the airport and on to another destination. We are here to meet flights coming in and out, raise awareness of the crime and highlight the signs to look out for.
“Modern slavery denies victims their human right to life, safety and freedom. The criminals prey on vulnerable people, control them by fear and exploit them for their own selfish gains. I’m asking everyone in our local communities to be aware of the tell-tale signs and to help stop this unacceptable crime.”
Tell-tale signs that someone is a victim of modern slavery vary depending on the type of exploitation.
Signs of sexual exploitation to look out for include:
* A high turnover of female occupants being dropped off at the same property with little luggage during irregular hours on a regular basis
* Evidence of a person’s movement being controlled, for example, females who are escorted everywhere they go
* A person who has visible injuries including bruising and they may appear not to speak English
Signs of labour exploitation to look out for include:
* Someone working against their will
* People living and sleeping in their place of work in a group and rarely leaving those premises
* People who aren’t paid for their work, don’t have a working contract or don’t have control of or access to their lawful earnings
In addition, further signs which are common across all forms of modern slavery include:
* Someone who can’t produce their passport or personal documents
* Someone who is unsure of their home address or the local area
* Someone who is distrustful of authorities as traffickers may have told victims that police will be violent towards them
* Someone who has no access to medical treatment
* Someone who appears to be under the control of others
* An over-crowded house or flat
* Someone who may not have cash as they don’t get to keep the money that they earn.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Bell continued: “Modern slavery is a priority for the PSNI and Anti -Slavery week offers a real opportunity to highlight the issue and to raise awareness of the PSNI’s dedicated Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit. Every day is anti-slavery day for my team. We are here to help and we will investigate any incident and take action where there is sufficient evidence.
“We are working as hard as we can but we cannot tackle this problem alone. We rely on the strong partnerships that have been formed through the Department of Justice Organised Crime Task Force. Working closely with partners in An Garda Siochana, National Crime Agency, Public Prosecution Service, Immigration Enforcement, Border Force, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Custom and the Health and Safety Executive, we have recovered victims from exploitation in car washes, food manufacturing and processing factories and brothels to name a few. Many charities also play a really important role in assisting and supporting victims to rebuild their lives.
“I would urge people to visit the Human Trafficking page on PSNI’s website for more information on the signs to look out for. I would also ask people to help stop this unacceptable crime and contact us with any suspicions that they may have by calling 999 if it’s an emergency, 101 or the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700. One call could end the misery for a victim who could be living next door to you.”
Breakdowns of the nationalities of these victims include 9 Romanian, 6 Lithuanian, 4 Chinese, 3 Vietnamese, 2 Zimbabwean and 1 of each of Afghanistan, Albanian, Angolan, E. Timor, Hungarian, Malawi, Northern Irish, Nigerian, Slovakian and Sudanese.
During 2017/18 financial year the MSHTU has made 10 arrests, conducted 18 searches under warrant and carried out 48 safeguarding visits/non-warrant operations for criminal, labour and sexual exploitation. 6 persons were charged with MSHT and/or related offences and a further 3 persons were reported to the PPS for MSHT and/or related offences. 2 people were convicted for human trafficking, with one further suspect on remand and awaiting trial and one further person on High Court Bail.
During the 2017/18 financial year to date, the PSNI Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) has conducted 173 screening assessments. From these 36 potential victims of human trafficking were recovered in Northern Ireland and referred to the NRM. This is a increase when compared to the 34 potential victims recorded for the financial year 2016/2017. The 36 recovered victims included 17 males and 19 females. 9 of the 36 NRM referrals were children, 5 males and 4 females. The majority of these were rescued from labour exploitation (20 victims) with the remaining rescued from sexual exploitation (14), domestic servitude (1) and 1 type of exploitation remains unknown.
PSNI has seen a significant increase in this financial year (2018/19) already compared to the first 6 months last year. For the whole of the last financial year 36 persons were referred through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). This year 33 Potential victims have already been referred during the first 6 ½ months.
162 potential victims have been recovered in NI since the establishment of MSHTU in April 2015 and the MSHTU have had reason to engage with over 800 (804) persons to be screened for potential signs and indicators of slavery and/or Trafficking.