20 rescued in human trafficking probe

Published Monday, 18 August 2014
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Police have rescued 20 potential victims of human trafficking and arrested three men as part of an investigation into labour exploitation.

20 rescued in human trafficking probe
The men are being detained at Antrim PSNI Station. (© UTV)

The Romanians - 14 men and six women aged between 20 and 48 - were brought to safety from two locations in Co Armagh during the past week.

Three men, aged 23, 27 and 31, were arrested in counties Antrim and Armagh as part of the probe, which police said is linked to food production and has been running since last Wednesday.

The suspects are being questioned on suspicion of human trafficking, forced labour and slavery and money laundering.

Police have also been liaising with the Gangmaster Licensing Authority in this investigation.

Detective Inspector Todd Clements from Organised Crime Branch said: "This has been a fast-moving and complex operation which may continue for some time.

"The 20 people we have identified as potential victims of human trafficking for labour exploitation are in places of safety now. Our inquiries are continuing."

Police added that they have also liaised with the UK Human Trafficking Centre and other agencies to make sure the 20 potential victims are safe.

A statement continued: "Additional translators have been flown to NI from England to cope with the number of victims involved and the volume of information which needs to be processed."

Justice Minister David Ford said: "The trafficking of a human being for profit is a heinous crime and should not be tolerated in any community.

"I welcome the action by the PSNI which has led to the rescue of 20 potential victims of human trafficking in Co Armagh and would urge all members of the community to be vigilant to this terrible crime.

"Anyone with information or concerns about potential human trafficking should immediately contact either the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111 or the PSNI directly."

Lord Maurice Morrow said that the rescue sends a clear message that tighter legislation is required.

"That is deeply troubling and something which I remain committed to eradicating through my Private Member's Bill.

"For now, I take comfort from this swift action by PSNI which has freed 20 potential victims from slavery and a life of misery at the hands of ruthless masters," the DUP politician said.

"The three main objectives of my Bill are to tackle the scourge of human trafficking, ensure support mechanisms are in place for victims and tougher sentences for those responsible."

He continued: "I remain convinced current laws are insufficient to deal with this appalling and inhuman crime."

Danny Kennedy, Ulster Unionist Party MLA, said: "I am shocked and appalled to hear that 20 people may have been trafficked to County Armagh.

"The PSNI and other agencies must be applauded for their patient investigation which has led to the rescue of these vulnerable people from a modern form of enslavement and cruel exploitation.

"If anyone has any information regarding those responsible, they should inform the PSNI immediately."

© UTV News
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1 Comments
Reader in Lisburn wrote (123 days ago):
Sadly the punishment for these offence types is often lacking. The criminal scoundrels responsible require severe sentences that will when publicised cause other potential offenders to shudder. The starting point requires to be around twenty years for a first offence. That said other criminal punishments need upgraded also. Here's hoping!
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