Push to tackle modern slavery – everyone has a role to play

Date published: 19 October 2017

Modern slavery is happening in Northern Ireland and the Department of Justice (DoJ) is calling on everyone across society to be aware of the possible signs that someone may need help and to report suspicions quickly and confidentially.

To help raise awareness about the criminal activity of modern slavery the department has launched an awareness campaign in partnership with local councils, the emergency services, public and private organisations and a wide range of civil sector organisations.

Speaking at the launch Department of Justice Permanent Secretary Nick Perry said:

“Modern slavery is cruel and vile.  We are asking everyone to be aware of the signs and report suspicions to the authorities.

“One quick and confidential call could end the suffering of individuals and deliver the help and support they need.

Supporting the event and launching his annual report on anti-slavery, UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland OBE said: “No part of the UK is immune to the evil crime of modern slavery. Thousands of people are trapped in abusive, violent, exploitative conditions and this campaign brings us one step closer to putting a stop to it.

“My Annual Report details the impressive anti-slavery work across the UK, including efforts in Northern Ireland, and I look forward to seeing how this campaign will further add to the fight against modern slavery.”

Since the establishment of the PSNI’s Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) in 2015, PSNI have recovered over 100 victims from situations of modern day slavery or exploitation.

Chief Constable George Hamilton said: “These are horrendous crimes against some of the most vulnerable people in our society and we must all work together to ensure that we do everything possible to eradicate these appalling acts of criminality and inhumanity. We are committed and absolutely determined to bring those responsible for human trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour to justice.” 

Nationally, Home Secretary Amber Rudd recently approved the UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery and separately the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Annual Report has been laid Parliament.

The awareness campaign is being rolled out over all council areas and posters and leaflets offering advice on how to identify suspicious activity will be on display. A wide range of organisations have agreed to display and distribute the material in public spaces and to their staff including local councils, Health and Social Care Trusts, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and Northern Ireland Housing Executive, church and faith groups and a wide range of civil sector organisations.

Information is available on www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/human-trafficking

To report suspicions confidentially to the police call 999 or 101 or directly to the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 0121 700.

Notes to editors: 

1. View the material from the NI awareness campaign on Modern Slavery

2. During the 2016/17 financial year to date, the PSNI Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) has conducted 308 screening assessments.

From these 34 potential victims of human trafficking were recovered in Northern Ireland and referred to the NRM. This is a decrease when compared to the 59 potential victims recorded for the financial year 2015/2016.

There has been an increase in the number of persons screened during this period rising from 252 in 2015/16 to 308 2016/17.

The 34 recovered victims included 12 males and 22 females. 6 of the 34 NRM referrals were children, 4 males and 2 females. The majority of these were rescued from sexual exploitation (15 victims) with the remaining rescued from labour exploitation (9), criminal exploitation (5), domestic servitude (2) and 3 types of exploitation remains unknown.

Breakdowns of the nationalities of these victims include 7 Chinese, 5 Romanian, 3 Lithuanian, 3 Albanian, 2 Bulgarian,2 Zimbabwean,2 Vietnamese, and 1 each of, Zambian, Mongolian, Taiwanese, Sierra Leone, Somalian, Nigerian, Iranian, Republic of Congo, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

During 2016/17 financial year the MSHTU has made 10 arrests, conducted 27 searches under warrant and carried out 52 safeguarding visits/non-warrant operations for labour and sexual exploitation. Four persons were charged with MSHT and/or related offences and 8 persons reported to the PPS for MSHT and/or related offences.

There are currently six people awaiting trial, in relation to MSHT Offences, all having been arrested since April this year. Five of those people are on remand and one on High Court Bail.

Since 2011 confiscation orders for over £130,000 cash have been granted for money seized due to exploitation in NI.

Since the establishment of the MSHTU in 2015, PSNI have recovered over 100 victims from situations of modern day slavery or exploitation.

3. The UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery (formerly the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group report) was published on 17 October 2017.

The 2017 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery

4. The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s (IASC’s) Annual Report 2016/17

5. The research report “A Typology of Modern Slavery Offences in the UK” is available on gov.uk The Home Office Minister Sarah Newton announced the publication in a speech at the launch of the CofE Clewer Initiative on 17 October 2017.

6. The Belfast Charitable Society and the Slave Trade

The Belfast Charitable Society was founded in 1752 to assist the poor and destitute of Belfast.  For the first 130 years of its existence it found itself conflicted at times with its members playing significant roles in how slavery was viewed in Belfast.

When a proposal to create a slaving company in the town, it angered many members of the Belfast Charitable Society. William Drennan was responsible for helping to draw up a petition which was passed around the town, collecting signatures against slavery. Mary Ann McCracken, a member of the Ladies Committee of the Belfast Charitable Society and Martha McTier formed the Belfast Women’s Anti-Slavery League. 

Mary Ann, as an old and frail lady in 1850s in Belfast, stood by the gangway of ships that were heading for the southern ports of the USA where slaves still worked, to hand out anti-slavery leaflets to emigrants and sailors.

However, at the same time many estates and businesses utilised slaves to harvest their crops such as sugar.  Waddell Cunningham, a member of the Belfast Charitable Society is probably the best-known slave owner in Belfast as he attempted to open Belfast as a slave port.  Waddell had gone to America in the 1750s and with a Belfast-based partner, Thomas Gregg, a founding member of the Belfast Charitable Society, and established a firm which by 1775, had become the largest shipping company in New York.

Thomas McCabe was a member of the Belfast Charitable Society watchmaker and United Irishman. He is said to have stood at the foot of Donegal Street, near the Old Exchange Buildings, where he held up the prospectus for this proposed company, calling out – ‘May God wither the hand and consign the name to eternal infamy of the man that will sign this document’. The Northern Star, the paper of the United Irishmen, would tell its readers that ‘every individual, as far as he consumes sugar products becomes accessory to the guilt.’

7. Clifton House

Clifton House is an impressive Georgian building, set in tranquil landscaped gardens in the heart of Belfast. Opened in 1774 by Belfast Charitable Society, the building was used until the late 1880s as Belfast’s Poor House.  It was used as a nursing home and hospital for older people and is now a unique event venue.

Combining Georgian elegance and a city centre location, Clifton House offers an impressive space for a wide range of events including meetings, exhibitions, AGMs, workshops, conferences, dinner and receptions.

Many of Northern Ireland’s leading public and private sector organisations have used Clifton House for events and our in-house staff will work closely with you to ensure a successful and professional event.

Facilities include car parking, a range of catering options and wireless internet. Guests can also learn about the history of this fascinating building through our interpretative centre which features a large collection of antiques and artefacts, some dating back to 1774 when the Poor House was first opened.

8. For all media queries, please contact the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444.  Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715440 and your call will be returned.

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