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NI: Amnesty welcomes anti-trafficking team, but calls for proper victim protection

Reacting to the announcement that the Government is setting up an anti-trafficking team in Northern Ireland to tackle the reported increase in the number of foreign Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights forced into prostitution, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland Programme Director Patrick Corrigan said:

“While we welcome this official admission that trafficking is indeed a growing problem in Northern Ireland, we must remember that every trafficked person has been a victim of a crime and suffered a gross violation of their human rights.”

“We are aware that the PSNI did not appear to fully engage with Operation Pentameter, the recent UK-wide crackdown on the trafficking and forced prostitution of foreign Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights which was rolled out across the rest of the UK. The initiative shown by police in Britain and the Republic of Ireland has been very successful, resulting in many individuals being charged with trafficking offences, and in many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights being freed from desperate situations."

"Indeed, we note that when Operation Pentameter was launched in March, the PSNI told Amnesty, in response to our questionning, that that in Northern Ireland "we do not have a problem with human trafficking for sexual exploitation".

This is a view that does not appear to be shared by the Security Minister Paul Goggins, who recently told the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee that he was "cautious, if not sceptical" about the claim that the "female foreign nationals working in prostitution" in Belfast have not been "forced into that position".

What is important now in Northern Ireland is that prosecutions happen, that the intelligence gathered is used, and that police time and resources are put into tackling this modern day slave trade.

However, the authorities risk further traumatising vulnerable Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights unless they are protected as victims of crime instead of being treated simply as illegal immigrants, as is currently the case.

"It is simply not acceptable for the United Kingdom to remain one of the few countries in Europe that doesn’t protect victims of this trade. The government could ensure these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are protected by signing up to the European Convention Against Trafficking today. It is very likely that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are offered this minimum level of protection will be more confident and able to help the police with ongoing investigations.”

The European Convention Against Trafficking guarantees trafficked people:

· a breathing period (reflection period) of at least 30 days during which they can receive support to aid their recovery, including safe housing and emergency medical support;

· temporary residence permits for trafficked people who may be in danger if they return to their country, and/or if it is necessary to assist criminal proceedings.

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