Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Anti-slavery raid officers rescue 20 Romanian victims: Two men charged

Twenty potential victims of human trafficking have been rescued as part of an investigation into slavery in Northern Ireland

Two men are due in court after twenty potential victims of human trafficking were rescued as part of an investigation into slavery in Northern Ireland.

The pair, aged 23 and 31, are accused of 50 offences including trafficking, forced labour and acting as an unlicensed gangmaster.

One also faces a charge of money laundering, police said.

They are due to appear at Lisburn Magistrates' Court later.

A total of 20 Romanians – 14 men and six women aged between 20 and 48 – were brought to safety by police from two locations in Co Armagh in the past week.

Local reports suggested some victims were found in Thomas Street in Portadown.

Three men were arrested in counties Armagh and Antrim on suspicion of human trafficking, forced labour and slavery and money laundering. Two properties were searched and three vehicles seized.

Additional translators have been flown to Northern Ireland from England to cope with the volume of information which needs to be processed.

Detective Inspector Todd Clements 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."

Police said at this stage there was no suggestion any employers have been complicit in any trafficking or labour exploitation.

Justice Minister David Ford congratulated the police on the success of the rescue operation. "I welcome the action by the PSNI which has led to the rescue of 20 potential victims of human trafficking in Co Armagh and would urge all members of the community to be vigilant to this terrible crime," he said.

DUP MLA Lord Morrow, who is sponsoring a Private Member's Bill on human trafficking and exploitation in the Assembly, warned that tighter legislation was required to combat the crimes.

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."

Ulster Unionist MLA Danny Kennedy said he was "shocked and appalled" at the discovery.

"Those responsible are parasites on our society," he said.

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