Minister Ford announces new protections for victims of modern slavery
Last Thursday, 24 March, Law Centre staff joined into an anti-trafficking awareness raising fun run and workshop at Stormont organised by 'In the Long Run' and the NI Department of Justice.
We were delighted that DoJ Minister David Ford MLA took the opportunity to announce new measures by his Department to protect all victims of modern slavery, including those who may not have been trafficked but are in situations of forced labour or exploitation.
We had been advocating for these and other related measures through our involvement with the DoJ's NGO Engagement Group on Trafficking and in our policy comments and briefings*.
Minister Ford said:
“The response to human trafficking and modern slavery across Northern Ireland has been totally transformed over the last six years.
“Across the justice and health sectors increasing numbers of frontline professionals have received training in how to spot and respond to suspicious signs of modern slavery. There has been engagement with schools, with council staff, legal professionals, migrant workers and 'at-risk' groups; and with the wider public to raise awareness. Good working relationships have also been established between the PSNI and An Garda Síochána to share best practice and to tackle cross-border cases of modern slavery.
“New legislation is also now in place which has simplified the legislative framework for investigators and prosecutors. Changes to the sentencing framework in Northern Ireland are helping to strengthen public protection, as will new Slavery and Trafficking Prevention Orders when they come into effect later this year. There have also been improvements to the support and protection available to victims, with legislation now clearly setting out the assistance that should be provided to potential victims in the NRM.”
The NRM (National Referral Mechanism) was introduced in 2009 to identify victims of human trafficking or modern slavery and ensure they receive the appropriate support.
The Minister added:
"As a first step towards enhancing the NRM in Northern Ireland, I have decided to extend the scope of the NRM here to all victims of modern slavery, not just to those who have been trafficked. This is an important step forward and will ensure parity of treatment, support and protection to those amongst us who are vulnerable and exploited. My officials are working to put in place the necessary arrangements as quickly as possible.”