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Police mount “significant operation” against Organised Crime Group trafficking young Romanian women

Human trafficking not for sale graphic

Detectives from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit today, 27 July, carried out a significant operation into an Organised Crime Group.

The operation, conducted jointly with Romanian authorities, focuses on the activities of a group suspected of trafficking young Romanian women throughout Northern Ireland for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

Officers from Organised Crime Branch, assisted by colleagues from Tactical Support Group and Neighbourhood Policing Teams, carried out searches and arrested three people in the Greater Belfast area.

Two men, aged 29 and 36, and a woman, aged 35, were each arrested on suspicion of human trafficking for sexual exploitation, controlling prostitution for gain, brothel keeping and money laundering.  The three remain in custody at this time.

Detective Inspector Rachel Miskelly said:

“It’s suspected that this crime group enticed young Romanian women to travel to Northern Ireland from Romania, with the false promise of lawful employment in a commercial setting. The grim reality is that, upon arrival, they’re forced into prostitution and exploited.

“So far, six victims have been identified, some of whom are already engaging with us and receiving support.”

Detective Inspector Miskelly continued:

“Crime groups involved in human trafficking seek to identify, groom and exploit individuals, particularly those who are in any way vulnerable.  Indeed, the victims linked to this investigation, who all come from one area in Romania, had previously experienced some form of hardship, such as adverse childhood experiences and physical abuse.

“These young women have been treated appallingly. They have been forced to engage in sexual activity, and the money made at their expense lines the pockets of the crime group members.

“Whilst the brothels linked to this group were located in Greater Belfast and Newtownabbey, we know the victims have been transported to various locations throughout the country for the purpose of sexual exploitation.”

She continued: “In order to tackle this criminality, our Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Unit and colleagues from the Romanian authorities formed a Joint Investigation Team, facilitated and supported by Eurojust.  Together, we’ve been working to gather evidence on the suspects and to identify any potential victims.

“Unfortunately, we suspect there be more victims yet to be identified and, with the support of our partners, our investigation will continue. As well as colleagues from the Romanian authorities, we have been working closely with the National Crime Agency, the Public Prosecution Service, An Garda Síochána, Woman’s Aid and the International Justice Mission.

“I would also like to appeal to members of the public for support to help us tackle the very real issue of modern slavery and human trafficking. If you have information or concerns that someone is being exploited or controlled, please report it to us.  

“Likewise, if you are a victim please speak to us.  We want to help you.  I assure you that you will be treated with respect and sensitivity – every step of the way.

“In an emergency call 999; 101 in a non-emergency; or call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 0800 012 1700.”

Tell-tale signs that someone is a victim of modern slavery vary depending on the type of exploitation, but there are things to look out for which are common across all forms of modern slavery. These include:

Someone who can’t produce their passport or personal documents

• Someone who is unsure of their home address or the local area

• Someone who is distrustful of authorities as traffickers may have told victims that police will be violent towards them

• Someone who has no access to medical treatment

• Someone who appears to be under the control of others or always has someone else speak on their behalf

• An over-crowded house or flat with a regular turnover of new occupants

• Someone who may not have cash as they don’t get to keep the money that they earn

Visit the Human Trafficking page on the Police Service of Northern Ireland website for more information on the signs to look out for.


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