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STEP hosts conference on Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland23 March 2012
Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland Conference held in Dungannon
Dungannon was the stage for a highly emotive conference event on Wednesday 21st of March centred on the distressing issue of Human Trafficking which has become an increasingly prevalent problem in Northern Ireland. STEP, the Dungannon community development and rights based organisation based in Dungannon organised the event as an opportunity for those working within both the community/voluntary and statutory/public sectors to come together to discuss the emergence of human trafficking as a major issue for NI.
A panel of key speakers whose work centres on the victims or perpetrators of human trafficking afforded the conference delegates an in-depth look into the severity of the issue within Northern Ireland and the current processes in place to support victims or counteract the occurrences or longevity of the victims’ subjection to conditions of forced labour, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation.
Attendees were welcomed by Bernadette McAliskey, CEO of STEP, who suggested that much work must be done to ensure that we as a community break down the conditions that create a climate where a person can become a victim of trafficking:
“When people read of human trafficking the story tends to concentrate on the more sensationalised context of brothels and prostitution with the moral outrage centred on buying and selling sex. The reality is that this tip of a scandalous iceberg can exist only in the context of human trafficking that excites less public attention – the exploitation and dehumanising of labour. People who are treated as no more than cheapest units of imported labour - whether lawfully imported; smuggled or trafficked are vulnerable to destitution and the downward spiral of unprotected rights forces them into domestic servitude, slave labour and prostitution. All these things are happening every day in the communities in which we live as part of the fabric of our society. This is modern day slavery. Nobody will protect the human dignity and human rights of the 21st century slave if we do not. Today’s conference will highlight the reality of the practice; the efforts to stop it and what you can do to help”
John McCallister, deputy leader of the Ulster Unionist Party addressed the delegates speaking about his campaign work on Human Trafficking and the need for the assembly to address current legislation and policy. He urged those working within the community to lobby and campaign on the issue so that it becomes a multi-agency focus and makes it “everyone’s business”.
Other speakers included Lois Hamilton, representing The Law Centre, Belfast who gave details of the various legal processes the victims of Human Trafficking must go through to while DS Philip Marshall, PSNI detailed statistics of cases within Northern Ireland and successful prosecutions on behalf of victims of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.
Victims’ perspectives were discussed by Marie Brown, Womens’ Aid and Roger McVicker, Migrant Help who are the first-hand response to female and male victims respectively within Northern Ireland. They gave accounts of the type of support emotionally and practically required by victims of trafficking and the impact of the experience of trafficking on an individual’s physical and psychological well-being.
Khara Glackin, STEP’s Solicitor and event organiser continues
“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the delegates from the various sectors for their participation in the conference and particular thanks to the panel of speakers who provoked much discussion by their extensive knowledge and expertise on a subject that sadly is becoming an increasing part of our society here.”
STEP will be producing a conference report based on the information highlighted by the key speakers at the event, to receive a copy, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
John McCallister, Deputy-leader UUP makes an opening address at the conference
A large crowd representing different sectors of the community and workforce attending the conference