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Councils issued with guide on reporting modern slavery in Northern Ireland

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Confidence: Naomi Long

Confidence: Naomi Long

Confidence: Naomi Long

Councils in Northern Ireland have been issued with new guidance to help their workers report modern slavery.

From refuse workers spotting suspicious activity on the street to registrars being alert to forced marriages, it is hoped the advice will allow councils to help police and other agencies.

The work was commissioned by the local government body NILGA and the Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership (NISMP).

It states that an average of 52 victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are recovered each year, equivalent to one a week.

Referrals for potential victims have ranged from 31 in 2017, to 91 in 2019 but it is believed the true picture is far higher.

The majority of referrals have related to adults facing labour and sexual exploitation.

The advice recommends modern slavery awareness training for all council staff working with the public, highlighting several areas.

This includes inspection of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) where victims could be living in substandard conditions.

Food hygiene and premises inspection for businesses like nail salons and hand car washes - both viewed as a high risk sector for labour exploitation - may also be an opportunity to spot victims or perpetrators.

Council workers undertaking waste collection may also notice suspicious activity in communities where modern slavery could be taking place.

Justice Minister Naomi Long said the guidance would give council workers the confidence to report suspicious activity.

"It is utterly intolerable that slavery, in any form, is happening in Northern Ireland," she said.

"Traffickers prey on the most vulnerable people in society. They exploit their victims to coerce and trap them against their will into prostitution, forced labour and criminality.

"Modern slavery is often referred to as the crime which is hidden in plain sight.

"Council workers can play a vital role, through their daily work, to detect indicators of slavery and human trafficking and, through greater awareness, feel more confident to report the signs.

NILGA president and DUP councillor Frances Burton said: "Modern slavery and human trafficking are happening daily in Northern Ireland.

"We must act now to report and stop these crimes at every opportunity," she said.

Belfast Telegraph


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