Belfast Telegraph

Rise in trafficked children

An increased number of children have been trafficked into Northern Ireland, it was disclosed.

Most were intended for sexual exploitation and a specialist legal support network is to be established to provide advice, the Law Centre Northern Ireland said.

Seventeen potential child victims have been identified since April.

Law Centre project worker Fidelma O'Hagan said: "Children and young people who are trafficked into Northern Ireland face real hurdles in getting the support they need to navigate a complex system and enjoy their legal rights."

Since April, 31 children and adults from within and outside the UK are believed to have been smuggled into Northern Ireland, many for sexual or labour exploitation, Justice Department figures showed.

Seventeen were children, including nine sexual abuse victims from within the UK. Some of the young people were trafficked for an unknown purpose.

In the 2012/13 financial year 16 potential trafficking victims were rescued, including two children.

Ms O'Hagan added: "This project is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland. It allows the Law Centre NI to work to ensure that every young person who is a victim of trafficking in Northern Ireland receives the guidance and assistance they need.

"This new service allows us to provide specialist legal advice and representation to children, young people and other victims of trafficking."

Comic Relief is supporting the new service.

Children's commissioner Patricia Lewsley-Mooney said: "The process that every trafficked child goes through must seek to protect them when they are facing a very frightening time.

"The Anti-Trafficking Children and Young People Project at the Law Centre (NI) will support this vulnerable and often invisible group of young people.

"It offers skills and expertise to listen to, advise and support trafficked children to help them enjoy the rights they are entitled to through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child."

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