Belfast Telegraph

Call for vigilance after increase in modern slavery investigations in Northern Ireland

There's been an increase in the amount of modern slavery cases investigated
There's been an increase in the amount of modern slavery cases investigated
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Modern day slavery investigations have increased in Northern Ireland as the public have been urged to be be more vigilant.

Since April, the PSNI has investigated 54 cases passed to the National Referral Mechanism, up from 33 reported by the same time last year.

The crimes include labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced criminality and domestic servitude.

As part of Anti-Slavery day, the Department of Justice has said Northern Ireland should be a “hostile place” for those seeking to enslave others.

Key warning signs include people who are distrustful of the authorities or appear to be under the control of others.

Other red flags include living in an overcrowded home, someone who is unsure of their address or the local area.

Those affected by modern slavery will often not be allowed to carry any cash, a passport or personal documents.

Claire Archbold is the DoJ’s Director of Safer Communities.

She said: “The Department aims to prevent people from getting drawn into slavery by reducing the vulnerability of those who may be targeted by traffickers and enslavers; and ensuring that the general public is equipped to spot the signs of exploitation and report any suspicions."

The appeal comes as a strategic plan for 2019-21 is published from the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton.

The focus is on improving care and support for victims, supporting law enforcement and learning from research.

Detective Inspector Mark Bell from PSNI’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit said: “Modern slavery is often an unseen crime as victims can be afraid to speak out or may be being held captive."

He added: "Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing crime types in the UK and this is reflected in the statistics that we are seeing here. 

"In the past six and a half months of this financial year, 54 potential victims have already been identified in Northern Ireland and referred to through the National Referral Mechanism. This is a sharp increase as 59 potential victims of human trafficking were identified during the whole of the last financial year.

“Many potential victims have been identified as a result of our proactive operations so the actual number of people in Northern Ireland affected by the crime is unknown as it often goes unreported and undetected within the community.

"This is why operations such as this one today are so important. We will continue to proactively look to identify any potential victims and speak to the public about the signs that they should be looking for."

According to DI Bell, labour exploitation was the most common form of exploitation last year.

The Modern Slavery Helpline can also be contacted on  0800 0121 700.

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