Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland: What Does It Look Like? (1/5)

I have about 5 conversations a week with people who have NO IDEA that human trafficking exists in this country. Many of you know much more about the ins and outs and solutions to the problem; but this post serves as a general overview of human trafficking in Northern Ireland.

Global slavery

27 million. 27 million people currently enslaved in the world, from and in almost every country and in many kinds of slavery: the most common are forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced combat.

2.5 million people are in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, at any given time as a result of trafficking. 600K-800K people are trafficked yearly. 56% are in Asia and the Pacific. Men, women and children are trafficked (women and children make up the majority of victims). 95% experience physical or sexual violence. 99% of victims are NOT rescued. (These numbers are official estimates as exact statistics are difficult to ascertain in the context of such a crime).

It’s easy to think of human trafficking as an ‘over there’ problem. Surely it can’t happen in our country. Surely not on our streets. Surely not in our daily lives.

Slavery in Northern Ireland (most commonly referred to as ‘human trafficking’ – whether you are trafficked 1000 miles or just one, you are enslaved and a victim of trafficking).

Northern Ireland is experiencing an ‘awakening’ of sorts, through increased press coverage, more awareness in wider circles, and a booming network of action groups against it. We are finally beginning to, as a country, acknowledge the presence of human trafficking here.

“Northern Ireland society should not be ignorant of the fact that trafficking is going on in every part of our community. I therefore welcome the spotlight that is being shone on human trafficking.” David Ford, Justice Minister.

The PSNI estimates that 170 – 180 ‘escorts’ are available for be bought for sex each day in Northern Ireland. The sex trade (involving sex trafficking and ‘voluntary’ prostitution) brings in £500,000 each week in NI.  Although in the UK, sex trafficking is the second most frequent kind of trafficking, in Northern Ireland, it is the first. 07.02.2012 update: “We know from police statistics that we have the fastest growing sex industry in the UK at the moment.”

Secondly, forced labour is a reality in Northern Ireland. People brought to the country, or trafficked from within it, forced to carry out tasks against their will in conditions worse than what we place our animals in, their very human rights denied. This happens in many sectors: the catering, fast food, agriculture and fishing industries have all been identified by the PSNI.

There are other kinds of trafficking occurring on our doorsteps.  Domestic servitude. Forced begging. Families trafficked over to beg, individuals forced to beg and when they have caught the attention of the police, re-trafficked to a new location where the cycle will recommence.

I’ll not use this space to post links to stories about human trafficking in Northern Ireland. I’d encourage you, though, to search for some online – take ownership of the issue in your country, get to know what is going on. Do your research. Alternatively, get on Twitter! 07.02.2012 update: “Speaking in the assembly on Tuesday afternoon, David Ford said the PSNI had identified 26 potential victims in Northern Ireland since April 2011.”

Until last week, there had been much coverage in the press and many investigations but no convictions. We have no got the first conviction of human trafficking in Northern Ireland under our belt. Things are moving.

Be assured that human trafficking is happening right where you live. Be assured also that you have a part to play in stopping it.

Tomorrow’s post outlines what is being done against trafficking in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday’s post will cover how human trafficking works.

Thursday’s post will cover the task of challenging the mindset that cradles human trafficking.

Friday’s post, I’m leaving open to your response to the other posts – if you have questions and comments, please contact me and we’ll shape the final post together.

5 thoughts on “Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland: What Does It Look Like? (1/5)

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