Newtownabbey councillors have backed a motion calling for more action to tackle the growing problem of human trafficking across Northern Ireland.
At their monthly meeting on Monday evening (September 30), members gave their unanimous backing to the motion, put forward by Alderman Paul Girvan.
It read: “This council recognises that human trafficking and exploitation is a growing problem in Northern Ireland;
“Believes that existing statistics regarding the number of people trafficked in to Northern Ireland do not reflect the scale of the problem and are only the “tip of the iceberg” in regard to the scale of the problem;
“Believes that no human being should be subjected to: sexual exploitation, enforced labour or domestic servitude and condemns those who engage in human trafficking; “Believes that more action should be undertaken to support those who have escaped from exploitation and to punish those who exploit them.”
The DUP man claimed that “slavery is very much alive and well in the 21st century” and said that politicians and government agencies “have a duty to protect the most vulnerable - those with no voice who cannot speak for themselves.”
With a Bill aimed at tackling human trafficking and exploitation currently being considered by MLAs at Stormont, some members questioned why the matter was being raised at council level, while others said that some of the proposals in the Bill are “flawed” and could force existing problems under ground, making them even more difficult for the police and other agencies to deal with.
While several members, including Alliance representatives Billy Webb and John Blair, stressed that aspects of the Bill still need to be “ironed out” during the committee stage at Stormont, there was unanimous agreement on the motion.