In a crackdown on 'modern slavery', the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have arrested three people suspected of sex trafficking after rescuing 15 women from brothels in Belfast.
Detective chief superintendent Roy McComb, of the PSNI organised crime branch, said: "This is modern-day slavery where human beings are treated like commodities by sophisticated organised crime gangs who are making substantial criminal profits from the sex trade.
"These gangs have no thought for the health and wellbeing of their victims. They see them simply as instruments to help them generate cash."
McComb added: "Human trafficking and prostitution is no longer gender specific. Men and women are being tricked or forced into prostitution in major towns and cities. They are being robbed of their liberty, stripped of their dignity, and suffer intolerable conditions as unwilling emblems of the sex trade."
Patrick Yu, of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, added the rescue was good news but cautioned that the women would need continuing protection. "In most cases they don't want to testify [against their captors] because their family may be in danger at home," he said.
Last month, a study by the Association of Chief Police Officers found that around 17,000 of the estimated 30,000 women involved in off-street prostitution are from overseas. Of these, 2,600 are confirmed victims of sex slavery / human trafficking and a further 9,200 are 'vulnerable migrants' working unwillingly in the sex trade, but who researchers could not be certain had been trafficked into the UK.
- Police Service of Northern Ireland
- Belfast brothel raids free 15 women forced into prostitution, police say (Guardian)
- Modern slavery: 'thousands' fall victim to abusive employers every year (The Solicitor)
- Majority of prostitutes are foreign migrants; 10% confirmed as 'sex slaves' (The Solicitor)
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