Northern Ireland Assembly passes landmark Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s decision to pass the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill is a ‘landmark’ moment, according to Christian charity Care.  

The Bill includes legislation to criminalise paying for sex, tougher punishments for those found guilty of trafficking and a statutory support service for victims. It is the first dedicated anti-slavery legislation to be passed into UK law in more than 200 years.

Care Northern Ireland policy officer Mark Baillie said: ‘This Bill not only provides support for victims…it also tackles one of the root causes of trafficking: namely, paying for sex…The gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down to the other parliaments across the UK in terms of what is done to tackle the evil of trafficking.’

Meanwhile, Jamie Fyleman from Tearfund welcomed the Catholic Church’s plans to open a rehabilitation clinic for trafficking victims in London. He said: ‘The fact that faith leaders from around the world came together and said they are going to do all that they can possibly do to eradicate modern-day slavery by 2020 is amazing. It’s so exciting to see the Church speaking out about this issue.’

A recent report from the Home Office revealed that up to 13,000 people in the UK may be held in slavery conditions; four times the figure previously thought.  

Home secretary and Christian, Theresa May, said the scale of abuse was ‘shocking’. In 2014, May introduced a Modern Slavery Bill, which she describes as ‘the first of its kind in Europe’.  

‘Everyone must play their part if we are to consign slavery to history where it belongs,’ she said.

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