Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Monday, 3 December 2012

Report on action against human trafficking

A recent report on tackling human trafficking was "not entirely positive" about how the Department of Justice was dealing with the problem in Northern Ireland, a DUP MLA said on 3 December 2012.

Lord Morrow tabled the motion which called on Justice Minister David Ford, along with his Executive colleagues, to implement the recommendations in the Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) report.

The report looked at how well UK authorities had implemented the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking.

He said it raised concerns over the lack of reliable data on adult and child victims in Northern Ireland.

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said there was no central data collection or analysis point.

He added the Criminal Justice Bill, which proposes changes to the law relating to human trafficking, was written before the GRETA report, and therefore he urged the minister to take it into consideration and consider amendments to the bill.

Sinn Fein's Sean Lynch said his party supported the "radical and progressive" GRETA recommendations.

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott said "human trafficking is wrong and every possible action should be taken to prevent it happening". He said a co-ordinated approach was vital and that he supported the recommendations which mentioned the need for agencies to work together.

The SDLP's Alban Maginness said there was a need for a co-ordinated all-island approach.

Anna Lo of the Alliance Party said Northern Ireland was not only a destination point but was also a transit route to the Irish Republic.

The Green Party's Steven Agnew said he was concerned that human trafficking victims were being repatriated too early, and therefore "faced the risk of becoming victims to our immigration system as well".

Responding to the debate, Justice Minister David Ford said work was being developed to ensure data was handled in an appropriate way across the UK.

"I fully accept the recommendation that partnerships should be built," he said.

He said he had asked his officials to advise if human trafficking should be an indictable-only offence, meaning it could only be tried in a crown court.

The DUP motion gained cross-party support and passed on an oral vote.

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