Anna Lo MLA, who is Chair of the All Party Group on Human Trafficking said: “I am absolutely delighted by the huge support from all the political parties in Stormont and the voluntary and community sector for the establishment of the group, in fact, I know that today this launch was heavily oversubscribed and there was a waiting-list for those wanting to attend.
“With events throughout this No More Traffik Week, it is evident that the public are concerned about this issue and want to send out a clear message that human trafficking will not be tolerated in our society.
“This launch symbolises the political will that exists in Stormont to meet our obligations to fight this heinous crime which preys on the vulnerable and generates profits out of human suffering.
“The All Party Group on Human Trafficking was established to promote effective action against trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation and to work to ensure sufficient protection is afforded to its victims.
“This new Assembly Group aims to tackle the problem of Human Trafficking through awareness-raising, building co-operation with our parliamentary counterparts in England, Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland by monitoring and advocating changes in law, policy and practice. “Particularly, we will seek to establish links and joint working with the Group at Westminster and we are particularly delighted to have Lady Butler-Sloss, its co-Chair with us today.
“This desire to work proactively in collaboration extends to an objective to maintain a strong network with intergovernmental organisations such as the European Union, United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, International Organisation for Migration, and International Labour Organisation. We also hope to participate in and make links with the EU Parliamentarians Against Human Trafficking Project.
“The All Party Group seeks to obtain a clear picture on the nature and extent of human trafficking in Northern Ireland. It is a ‘hidden problem’ and although we now do have some statistics and figures, I believe that the gravity of the situation in Northern Ireland is still unknown. We are not only a transit country or a port of entry to the UK mainland or to the Republic, we have now become a country of destination.
“The APG hopes to obtain a clearer picture on the nature and extent of human trafficking in Northern Ireland and have received briefings from a number of statutory and non-statutory bodies who have helped us understand the true extent of Human Trafficking.
“Whether numbers are in the tens or the thousands: any human trafficking is unacceptable.
“In a briefing to the APG Det. Supt. Philip Marshall of the PSNI showed a picture of a door in the inside of a room where a victim had been held in a brothel in Northern Ireland. That image of the nail scratch marks on that door where the victim had tried to escape will stay with me forever. It illustrates the true horror of trafficking and shows us that if even one person is experiencing that, we need to act.
“The All Party Group has some of the following aims and objectives: to raise awareness of human trafficking in Northern Ireland; where appropriate, it aims to encourage the Assembly to legislate on issues related to human trafficking; it seeks to advise the Department of Justice and other relevant Ministers on how best to implement effective action; it aims to facilitate meaningful dialogues with, and scrutinise the activities of, the relevant law enforcement bodies such as the PSNI, UK Border Agency, and Serious Organised Crime Agency and also it seeks to facilitate dialogues with members of civil society in Northern Ireland such as non-governmental/human rights organisations and the media.
“We have been encouraged by the levels of awareness, understanding and activism that exist in Northern Ireland and these give us a great foundation to build on going forward.”