Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Justice what measures are being considered to raise public awareness of the continuing incidents of people trafficking in Northern Ireland.
Minister of Justice: Equipping Northern Ireland to identify and eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking is a key priority for my Department.
My clear commitment to tackling modern slavery and human trafficking crimes is set out in the Northern Ireland Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Strategy for 2021/22, published in May 2021, which details the comprehensive range of actions by my Department and our partners – both in the statutory and NGO sector – to Pursue offenders, Protect victims and Prevent these crimes from occurring.
The principal purpose of the Strategy is to raise awareness of modern slavery offences, reduce the threat from, the vulnerability to, and the prevalence of, this heinous crime in Northern Ireland. Raising awareness, together with ensuring that strategic partners receive effective training and co-ordinate their approach to tackling this issue is paramount.
A key part of the Strategy’s ‘Prevent’ strand is to ensure collaborative working and share knowledge across strategic partners to identify best practice and to facilitate greater public awareness of modern slavery.
At present, the Strategy is published on an annual basis. Addressing complex issues relating to modern slavery and human trafficking requires a long term, holistic and collaborative approach. I am therefore seeking to move towards a three year strategy, subject to the Assembly approving the relevant provisions within the forthcoming Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking Victims) Bill .
My Department co-ordinates the Organised Crime Task Force and through its Modern Slavery Human and Trafficking Sub Group, multi-agency work to raise awareness of, and to identify, understand and tackle these offences is underway. We also work in partnership with civil society through an NGO Engagement Group to inform the development of and implementation of our Strategy and to raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking.
The public and wider civic society are urged to report any suspicions of modern slavery and human trafficking through the existing police systems or alternatively through the Modern Slavery Helpline or CrimeStoppers.
The published Organised Crime Task Force Annual Report and Threat Assessment also provides information in relation to modern slavery and human trafficking in Northern Ireland. The latest report sets out the nature of the threat, how law enforcement partners respond to that threat and summarises the results achieved by OCTF partners. It also highlights how we can all play our part in tackling the scourge of modern slavery.
As we approach Anti-Slavery Day on the 18th October 2021 my Department will be working alongside key NGO and Statutory partners to raise public awareness about modern slavery and human trafficking.
Progress has been made, but I believe more needs to be done and my Department will continue to work in partnership with our partners and key stakeholders to continue to raise public awareness of these despicable crimes and to disrupt traffickers.