Belfast Telegraph

Human trafficking awareness urged

Binmen and taxi drivers are among those to be trained in spotting victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland, it was revealed.

A major event is being planned for Belfast early next year to raise awareness of exploitation.

Since April this year more than a dozen potential human trafficking victims have been referred for specialist support.

Often they are vulnerable, lured by traffickers with false promises of paid employment, intimidated and having little idea how to seek help.

Julie Wilson, head of the human trafficking team at the Department of Justice, said a special group of experts was tackling the problem.

"Belfast City Council is hoping to run an event in early January, they are trying to target a lot of groups, like taxi drivers, hotel staff, environmental health inspectors, bin men," she told a meeting of MLAs at Stormont.

Hundreds of people have fallen victim to traffickers in Northern Ireland, First Minister Peter Robinson has said.

Many were exploited in a modern-day version of the slavery of previous centuries, the DUP leader added.

His party is supporting an assembly Bill toughening measures surrounding prostitution. Part of it faces opposition from some experts and senior MLAs who fear driving the trade underground or threatening the safety of women.

SDLP MLA Alban Maginness said a Belfast awareness raising event would be a positive development, even if it was still only at the "contemplative" stage of organisation.

"It may be useful in terms of identifying local problems and people in such occupations are more likely to notice things than even the police for example," he said.

"Anybody in contact with the public in that respect may have some sort of knowledge and would be helpful in terms of dealing with this very nasty trade."

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