News Feature: Human Trafficking Rise in Northern Ireland

Picture credit:  The A21 Campaign

Picture credit: The A21 Campaign


By Hayley Parr

School children in Northern Ireland will be taught about human trafficking as their country continues to tackle the status of having one of the fastest growing sex industries in Europe for the size of its population.

Lesson packs will be offered to teachers in educating 14 to 16 year olds on the issue that deals with the trade in humans most commonly involving sexual slavery and forced labour in Northern Ireland; a country that has been named ‘the gateway’ for this type of work.

During 2011-2012 there were 33 potential recovered victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland. More recently, between April 1 and August 5 2013 there has been 11 potential victims recovered.

Worldwide there are around 27 million slaves in the world today, a number which remains the highest recorded in human history. Only 1-2% of these exploited male, female and child victims are recovered.

According to the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) between January and March this year 407 referrals had been made in the UK with victims from around 60 countries. On July 2, 134 of the 407 referrals were positive victims of human trafficking, the remaining were in different stages of referral.

Among these statistics were individuals originating from Albania, Nigeria, Poland, Vietnam, UK, Romania and more.

These statistics are what many campaigners call the tip of the iceberg and only recognise identified cases.

During a seminar at Stormont early October 2012 DUP MLA Lord Morrow expressed concerns of human trafficking in Northern Ireland which led to new trafficking offences under the Criminal Justice (NI) Act 2013.

Taking forward a number of steps to raise awareness and to tackle the problem Northern Ireland’s Department of Justice have issued first of their kind educational packs for over 200 post-primary teachers to use if they feel it is necessary.

Lessons will focus on awareness and citizenship and aim to make pupils more able to spot human trafficking signs, how to respond to cases and who to report to if they have suspicions. Included are guidelines for teachers on dealing with sensitive issues.

The A21 Campaign teaches the message worldwide that people are not a commodity; that humans do not have a price tag. Their most recent campaign in London featured protesters with tape over their mouths and price tags around their neck.

Helen Cupples, Northern Ireland’s advocate for the A21 campaign said: “A21 have already been working in schools and talking to kids about the problems of human trafficking and we will be using parts of the pack in our talks. So far the schools have been very welcoming.

“Most people don’t know about this problem in Northern Ireland; they think it is too small a country for this to be happening in, but it is happening on a fast growing scale.

“Because of the past troubles in Northern Ireland there was a lot going on in the background but as the troubles started to die down the problem of human trafficking became more apparent.

“The country is like a gateway. There is little or no border control when entering Ireland by boat, you can enter without documentation. It is easy entrance for traffickers and that is what makes this country so desirable for these people.”

The signs which may be considered or occupations that could lead to human trafficking cases and those told to be aware of in the packs, include: forced begging and street crime, forced selling of a person’s body for sex, domestic servants/maids/nanny, grooming of young people for exploitation, the making of clothes/chocolate/electrical equipment, working on farms in agriculture and organ harvesting.

The pack mentions human trafficking can affect a number of different people such as males or females, children or adults, migrant communities or local people.

There are six step-by-step lesson plans covering different topics within human trafficking such as global and local, human rights, the myths, and victim perspectives, recognising and responding to trafficking, and society’s response to trafficking. Aids to teach these subjects are power points, hand-outs and case study videos about forced labour, grooming and sexual exploitation.

There are no requirements for teachers to use lesson plans, however, according to Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister David Ford, several schools have already expressed an interest.

David Ford said: “We cannot close our eyes to the fact that human trafficking is happening in Northern Ireland and raising the awareness of our young people to this crime is essential to enable them to spot the signs and to report any suspicions to the police or Crime stoppers.

“I appreciate very much the efforts of those teachers and their pupils who are already contributing to the fight against human trafficking. This resource pack and the events for EU Anti Trafficking Day will help to further raise awareness.”

Education Minister John O’Dowd, who encourages all teachers to use the resource said:  “The revised curriculum is very flexible and it provides a number of opportunities for teachers to deal with important issues such as human trafficking. The development of this resource is particularly relevant to citizenship education, a compulsory element of the revised curriculum, which provides pupils with opportunities to explore human rights and social responsibility and equality and social inclusion.

Robert Shilliday, communications manager at the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) said: “There was a gap in the curriculum which does not deal with the issue of human trafficking. Northern Ireland has a fairly small curriculum core that allows teachers the room to tailor their teaching.

“Producing this pack for teachers to use if they wish in their lesson plans will cover the issue that we are becoming more aware of through news reports.

“The purpose of a well-balanced curriculum is to develop young people to citizens that can contribute to society. Introducing this pack will allow them to discuss and become more aware of the problem in their development to become good citizens.”


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