In the middle of the launch day of No More Traffik 2013, I’m taking a few minutes to reflect on what has happened since No More Traffik 2012. The past year has been a whirlwind of events, conversations, changes, victories, losses, waiting and running that in many ways feels like it only began yesterday. It’s easy then to forget to look back and savour the things that happen on the road, so I’ve made a list to remind you, and me, of the extraordinary year we have had in the fight against human trafficking in Northern Ireland.
Since May 2012…
| Victims have been rescued. The official statistics have not yet been released, but we continue to see people – from Northern Ireland and abroad, men and women, adults and children – rescued from labour exploitation, sex slavery and domestic servitude.
| The law has changed. The Criminal Justice ACT (Northern Ireland) received Royal Assent last month. Traffickers who operate across international borders OR within the UK can be tried in NI. Trafficking offences are now triable on indictment only. We are the only other country, aside from Canada, to have such a law that acts a strong deterrent to would-be traffickers.
| The government has listened. From the results of a consultation launched last year, the Justice Minister initiated an NGO Engagement Group of which NMT is part and which has created further space to network with other groups working on the issue in order to strengthen our collective approach.
| 5 new community groups were born in Northern Ireland: Antrim ACT, Ballymena ACT, South Belfast ACT, North West ACT and a new group in Coleraine. These groups are so key to spreading awareness and ensuring that communities are equipped to combat trafficking specific to their localities.
| Individuals have made abolition their cause to fight for. One of my favourite things about the campaign week last year was seeing ordinary people do extraordinary things; this has happened over and over again this year with people examining the tools in their hands and putting them to work in their own sphere of influence, with the aim they share with so many others of putting an end to modern-day slavery.
| Schools have welcomed the chance to receive awareness training and partnership in developing their own projects. Over the course of the year, stunning stories of how under 18s have made trafficking their issue and used their influence for good have crept up across the country.
| Churches have received awareness training & have committed time to pray and support victim-centred projects. NMT has also been involved in Summer Madness, New Horizon, M12 and other faith-based events in the year.
| It also was an exciting year for us in terms of our structure as we became a registered charity and our board of directors welcomed some amazing world-changers to the family.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” Nelson Mandela
Mandela’s words are poignant as I look back on things that, this time last year, would have seemed to be dreams that were much too big for us. What impossible dreams will we see come true between now and No More Traffik 2014?
We’d love to see you this week. Check out our freshly spruced-up website for details of what’s happening.