Anna Lo MLA said: “Human Trafficking is not only a criminal offence but a gross violation of human rights to its victims. Whilst the GRETA report notes the advances the United Kingdom has made in tackling Human Trafficking, it set out what work still needs to be done.
“It says that the authorities should address the consequences of having numerous pieces of legislation on Human Trafficking, and ensure that all types of Human Trafficking are included and applied in full conformity with the Council of Europe Convention. Our legislative framework does comprise of a number of laws (with the Sexual Offences Act of 2003, Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004, Gangmasters Licensing Act 2004 and the policing and Crime Act 2009) and there’s a need for a coordinated and coherent approach to Human Trafficking.
“The Republic of Ireland has a specific piece of legislation i.e. the Criminal Law (Anti-Trafficking Act) 2008 but there is no evidence to say that a single piece of legislation may make it easier for Public Prosecution Service to bring prosecutions and for the courts to pass longer sentences than we have seen so far to the perpetrators. There’s no doubt we need clear definition and strong legislation, I therefore welcome the PPS commitment to issue guidance on Human Trafficking offences early next year in line with another of GRETA’s recommendation on guidelines.
“GRETA urges authorities to ensure that all victims of trafficking under 18 years of age be considered as child victims of trafficking within the meaning of the European Convention. This is already the case in Northern Ireland and it is the duty of the Social Care Trusts to look after child-victims. The All Party Group on Human Trafficking recently heard from Barnardo’s and the NSPCC highlighting the problem of internal trafficking, with emphasis on children. All too often we are only adult-focused in addressing Human Trafficking, forgetting the need for better public awareness regarding trafficking of children.
“One other recommendation is a continuation in developing a comprehensive and coherent data collection system on trafficking in human beings. It is suggested this is done by compiling statistical information from all main actors and allowing disaggregation (concerning sex, age, type of exploitation, country of origin and/or destination, etc.). In September I attended a Parliamentarians Against Human Trafficking event in London, where I was particularly struck by a pilot scheme instigating a Pan-European Monitoring System on Trafficking in Human Beings. This scheme collects data from 5 countries highlighting the social and economic profile of victims and offenders; as well as the geographical context. This helps to act as an early-warning system and maps out where Human Trafficking is most prevalent. Human Trafficking is of a transnational nature and we know that Northern Ireland is not only a destination country but also a transit route between us and the South. I gave evidence recently to the North-South Parliamentary Group on HT and I made the point that there needs to be more collaboration on information sharing between the two countries.
“The Report also deals with compensation, training of officials, evaluating authorities responses, ensuring the right toolkits are in place, collaboration with NGOs, recovery and reflection period and the protection of witnesses and victims, all of which demand our attention and effort to review our practice and find means to strengthen our approach. In terms of compensation, we need to look closer at confiscation of criminal assets from the traffickers to help not only fund victim compensation but also increase the capacity of the voluntary sector who are well placed to support victims.”
That this Assembly welcomes the report from the Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA); and calls on the Minister of Justice, along with Executive colleagues, to implement the recommendations in the GRETA report which relate to Northern Ireland.