Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 10 July 2014

Rules to combat child trafficking may be used in Northern Ireland

Extra security to prevent child trafficking could be introduced at Belfast airports if it becomes a problem, a Home Office minister has warned.

An initial scheme separating adults from children at Heathrow has had some success, Meg Hillier added. She said there was no evidence of a specific weak link in Northern Ireland but warned it was important to remain alert.

The minister attended a question and answer session with migrant support workers at Stormont yesterday.

“We are keen to ensure that any port of entry is a safe one and isn’t being used by people who want to exploit human beings,” she said.

“We have not received any particular information that there is such a burning problem in Belfast.”

She said at Heathrow security staff were discreetly taking aside children they suspect may have been trafficked and there were cases of detection there.

The minister added there was no routine intra-UK screening, and that it had to be intelligence-linked.

Last May detectives in Northern Ireland intercepted a Chinese organised crime gang involved in human trafficking and rescued six trafficking victims.

Ms Hillier also said there were proposals to make some migrants carry identity documents within the common travel area between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

She was also challenged about the impact of the UK Border Agency's rules on workers who feel exploited by employers.

Kevin Doherty, from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, said because work permits are linked to posts with a specific employer, staff who felt aggrieved found it impossible to complain.

The minister said business owners needed to be educated about the rules. “That is not intended to be a brake on people working, but simply to be a control on people working,” she said.

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