Foreign women are being imprisoned in homes across Northern Ireland and forced to work as sex slaves, the police warned today.
Women from Africa, Eastern Europe and the Far East have been rescued from local brothels run by international crime gangs in the last year, officers revealed.
They are among 11 victims of human trafficking that have been found in the region in 12 months.
Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris detailed the extent of the illegal sex trade at the launch of a new support service to help victims.
The officer said the brothels effectively doubled as prisons.
“They are being held in captivity,” he said.
“They live in fear of awful violence as well. We know an awful lot of violence is inflicted on them by those holding them and there’s the threat of violence either to them or even to their families back home.”
ACC Harris said it was not correct to call the women prostitutes.
“Prostitute is not an appropriate term because these women are being forced into this and they are just continual victims of rape. This is not about consensual sexual activity at all.”
Mr Harris said that while international gangs were organising the racket, many local criminals were assisting them.
He added: “Massive profits are made from this so we can expect that this will be a continuing problem for us.”
Security minister Paul Goggins joined ACC Harris at the launch of the new care services for victims of human trafficking rescued in Northern Ireland.
The new package of support, which is launched next month, is funded by the Government with support from the PSNI and will be delivered by Women’s Aid Federation (NI) and The Migrant Helpline.
They will offer access to secure accommodation, healthcare and counselling for victims of human trafficking.
Minister Goggins said victims of trafficking should not be reluctant to contact the authorities because they are concerned about being deported.
He said that issue was being “taken off the table” to enable help to be given to women who are victims of what he called “modern day slavery”.