Primate Eamon Martin urges public to be vigilant and report suspicions of people smuggling
Archbishop Eamon Martin yesterday called on people to keep their eyes open to the "reality" that human trafficking could be happening in Northern Ireland towns.
At Mass at St Patrick and St Colman's Cathedral in Newry, the clergyman said "migrant smuggling and human trafficking feeds on the desperation of vulnerable people".
"The grim discovery of 39 people found dead in a refrigerated container near the Essex docks during the week has shocked us all," said Archbishop Martin.
"I encourage everyone to pray for those who have perished, for their loved ones, for all those caught up in this gruesome situation and for those who are called to respond.
"Pray that the identities of the dead can be quickly established and that all those responsible be stopped and brought to justice."
He added: "Migrant smuggling and human trafficking feeds on the desperation of vulnerable people, many of whom are fleeing from violence or economic uncertainty."
The clergyman said smugglers and traffickers "exploit children, women and men who are prepared to use drastic measures to reach what they think and hope will be a better life, often only to be enslaved and manipulated in forced labour or prostitution".
He added: "The horror of this discovery should awaken us all to the reality that human trafficking could be happening right in front of us - in our own parish and in our own town.
"Let us resolve to raise awareness, to keep our eyes open and to cooperate at all levels of society for an end to this evil in our midst."