Helpline tackles human trafficking

Annika Howard
Invisible Traffick - speak up to end human trafficking

Figures from the National Crime Agency show that in the three months from April to June 2017, 1090 victims potential victims of human trafficking were reported in England, 52 in Wales, 47 in Scotland and 11 in Northern Ireland. The 1,200 potential victims were from 83 different nationalities with Albania, the UK and Vietnam being the most commonly reported.

The reasons why people are trafficked varies. Trafficking victims may be sexually exploited, used as forced labour, forced to beg, forced into sham marriages, coerced in to criminal exploitation, exploited for benefit fraud or forced to work as domestic servants.

We talked to Gayle Bunting, Director of our member Invisible Traffick, about the work the charity does to support victims of human trafficking.

“Invisible Traffick is an anti-human trafficking charity based in Northern Ireland, although we operate across the UK and Republic of Ireland. We are passionate about eradicating human trafficking. Human Trafficking, otherwise known as modern day slavery, is on the rise in local areas and communities across the UK. In Northern Ireland the statistics of identified potential victims of human trafficking are extremely low, misrepresenting the true scale of our problem here.

Supporting those affected

In March 2017 we opened our Freephone Helpline, the Helpline serves two purposes; to identify victims of trafficking and to gather information from the public concerning suspicious activity. Our aim is to offer emotional support and help for those who are already affected by human trafficking as well as support to the public who wish to share their concerns.

Identifying victims

The helpline is open from 6-10 pm on Tuesdays and Thursday and 10 am – 2 pm on Wednesday and Fridays. We want to build the capacity of our helpline, extending the opening hours, to allow us to identify as many victims of human trafficking as possible. This is a big area of focus for us.

Working together

Earlier this month, we attended a symposium on Modern Day Slavery, hosted by the BBC’s Karen Patterson. It was a great opportunity to raise awareness among those attending of the of the growing concerns and the problems faced in identifying people who have been trafficked, as well as the challenges of supporting victims of human trafficking in, Northern Ireland, Ireland and throughout the rest of UK.

I had the opportunity to talk to Kevin Hyland (OBE), the UK’s first independent, Anti-Slavery Commissioner who was one of the key speakers at the event. I chatted with him about the importance of having a local helpline dedicated to primarily serving Northern Ireland. He was very interested in hearing more about the support helpline service we are providing and the benefits it is bringing to the local community.”

If you are concerned about human trafficking or want to learn more about Invisible Traffick visit their website for information, support, and advice.

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