Belfast Telegraph

Poultry and eggs biggest sector for modern slavery in Northern Ireland

By Michael Sheils McNamee

A new report into labour exploitation and slavery in the UK has found potential victims in Northern Ireland are most frequently found working in the poultry and egg sector.

The finding is included in an annual report from the non-departmental public body the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), which shows the scale of slavery throughout the United Kingdom.

The report describes victims of modern slavery as people who are "unable to leave their situation of exploitation, controlled by threats, punishment, violence, coercion and deception".

In Northern Ireland in the 12 months up to March 2017, 35 modern slavery offences were reported to the PSNI.

This compared to 2,255 offences recorded by police in England and Wales and 60 recorded by Police Scotland.

Taken together, this total number of offences is much lower than the 13,000 estimated by the Home Office, which in turn the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland - who is responsible for driving improvements in Britain's anti-slavery response - has described as being "far too modest", compared against the probably actual total.

In Northern Ireland, intelligence produced from the GLAA found modern slavery victims in Northern Ireland were most frequently recorded as working in the poultry and egg sector.

It also noted that although difficult to measure, its intelligence showed people from Bulgaria, Romania and Lithuania were most frequently exploited in Northern Ireland.

This contrasted with the picture across the UK, where the top three victims of exploitation came from Vietnam, Albania, and within the United Kingdom.

Figures for the number of referrals made through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) - used to identify victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and provide them with support - show while referrals in England, Scotland and Wales all increased, the number in Northern Ireland remained steady. 

While the GLAA has a role in monitoring modern slavery in Northern Ireland, it does not have the power to investigate labour market offences in the way it does in England and Wales.

It is given the power to grant these investigations under the Immigration Act 2016.

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