Anna Lo MLA said: “I want to start by welcoming the good work that is being done by the authorities to tackle this despicable activity. We have seen the UK-wide Pentameter 2 and the Apsis police operations and they have made a massive impact in tackling human trafficking. It is essential there’s also co-operation with the Republic of Ireland and other countries in the EU. Northern Ireland has been shown as a transit route between Dublin to the rest of the UK in both directions.
“This horrific and brutal activity has to stop and we need to work on an international basis to crack down on it.
“We need cooperating with countries of origin where the majority trafficked victims are from. We need to see awareness raising in these countries with publicity, leaflets, and media coverage. Governments must crack down on bogus advertisements which lure people to fall into the trap. We need globally to get tough on those criminals making money out of human misery.
“We need more understanding of the issue here too. Human trafficking is not just for sexual exploitation, it includes domestic servitude as well as forced labour. It involves women, men and children. The Blue Blind Fold campaign has been very useful and we need more public awareness to help police to detect this activity. A lot more needs to be done on identification, protection, prosecution and prevention.
“Protecting unaccompanied minors is a massive issue. Children are told to declare at the ports and airports into the UK, are put into B&Bs by social services and sometimes disappear back into the hand of gangs. We need to see a better system put in place – we need to see children put into children’s homes or foster care where there is support and supervision.”