By Paul Wyatt
Human traffickers are highly skilled criminals that know how to evade the law. While I was investigating human trafficking I wondered what role, if any, paramilitaries play in human trafficking, and if paramilitaries facilitate trafficking in Northern Ireland due to being such key players within their tightly knit communities.
When I travelled to Belfast to interview the PSNI, I asked if human trafficking is indeed facilitated by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.
I also met up with the founder of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s All Party Group on Human Trafficking, Anna Lo. I asked her if she thought paramilitaries had a role to play in the facilitation of human trafficking. She told me that although the UVF say that they aren’t involved in human trafficking, she believes that members of paramilitary organisations do actually facilitate this crime in Northern Ireland.
The role that paramilitaries play in facilitating human trafficking does still remain unclear. However, I talked to a representative of West Belfast UPRG, who are known to provide political advice to the UDA, and they made it clear to me that they certainly have no knowledge or evidence to show that human trafficking occurs within their communities.
Lord Morrow of the DUP is currently bringing the issue of human trafficking in Northern Ireland to the fore with his Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill making waves in the NI Assembly.
When I met with Lord Morrow, I started off by asking him why he decided to base his Bill on the Swedish model, and if he thinks that there is currently enough North/South cooperation to tackle human trafficking.
Much of the debate around Lord Morrow’s Bill surrounds Clause 6, which will make the purchase of sexual services illegal. As Lord Morrow’s Bill is aimed at tackling all forms of human trafficking, and not just trafficking for sexual exploitation, I asked him what specifically in his Bill would tackle human trafficking for labour exploitation. During our discussion Lord Morrow implied that this is one area in which his Bill is currently failing.