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Northern Ireland: Amnesty responds to Private Members' Bill to tackle human trafficking

Lord Morrow’s Private Members Bill: Amnesty welcomes anti-trafficking measures but warns against diversion of resources

Amnesty International has welcomed steps to tackle human trafficking in Lord Morrow's draft Private Members Bill as providing a timely focus for the debate on how Northern Ireland can fulfil its international obligations on trafficking. However, the organisation warned that the Bill's proposals on prostitution risked the potential diversion of resources away from tackling existing human trafficking offences.

The Amnesty statement came as Lord Morrow prepared to present his Private Members Bill to the All Party Group on Human Trafficking at the Northern Ireland Assembly this afternoon.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International Northern Ireland Campaigner, said:

"The Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive have important roles to play in making the region a hostile place for human traffickers and a place of safety and support for the victims of trafficking.  

"We agree with the stated objective of Lord Morrow’s Private Members Bill which is to enable Northern Ireland to meets its international obligations to reduce demand, tackle trafficking, successfully prosecute cases and support victims.

"There are key elements of the Bill, especially around the provision of protection and services for the victims of trafficking, which we welcome. 

"However, Amnesty International is concerned that making ”the paying for sexual services of a prostitute”  a criminal offence could run counter to the purpose of tackling trafficking by confusing these related but separate issues and diverting criminal justice resources away from tackling trafficking. It is already an offence in Northern Ireland to pay for sexual services from someone who has been subjected to force,a position which we support.

Grainne Teggart added:

"The Trafficking Convention and the EU Trafficking Directive expressly provide measures to be taken for discouraging and reducing the demand for trafficking victims; the criminalisation of the users of prostitutes is not one of the measures they recommend. The proposed change to the law in Lord Morrow's Bill thus creates an offence outside the trafficking legal framework.

"Legislators should focus on the provision of essential support services to the victims of trafficking and steps to ensure more successful prosecution of traffickers.

"Amnesty International welcomes this debate on how Northern Ireland can meet its international obligations to protect and uphold the human rights of victims of trafficking."

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