The number of potential victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland referred to the Home Office has increased by more than 750% in the last eight years, “extremely worrying” new figures have revealed.
Suspected victims of human trafficking enter the Government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a framework for identifying and referring potential victims to the Home Office’s Single Competent Authority (SCA) to ensure they receive the appropriate support.
In 2012, there were 15 referrals in Northern Ireland to the NRM. By 2020 this had increased to 128 — a rise of just over 750%.
Justice Minister Naomi Long explained that, over the initial Covid-19 period, there was a reduction in the number of referrals made to the NRM.
“For example, over quarter one (January to March 2020), 30 Northern Ireland related referrals were made and during quarter two (April to June 2020) this number fell to 18 referrals. This reflects the general trend for decreased reports of criminal activity over that period.
“Overall, however, there has been a broadly upward trend in the number of potential victims referred to the NRM since 2012. The greater number of referrals in the last three years is not necessarily indicative of an increase in the prevalence of the crime.
“It may be influenced by factors such as increased awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking, and improved identification by statutory bodies of potential victims, which is to be welcomed.”
Green Party MLA Rachel Woods said she understands that the upward trend in referrals may be influenced by increased awareness and better identification by statutory bodies of potential victims, but it is still “extremely worrying”.
“We must do more to protect and support victims and I fully welcome the legislative changes in the Justice Bill that will extend statutory assistance to adult potential victims of slavery, servitude or forced labour,” she said.
The original full article can be found at belfasttelegraph.co.uk