The scourge of human trafficking in Northern Ireland was highlighted in Ballymena last week.
At a special presentation at The Braid Centre, which was addressed by Justice Minister, David Ford, a new resource pack for teachers was launched.
“We cannot close our eyes to the fact that human trafficking is happening in Northern Ireland and, raising the awareness of our young people to this crime is essential to enable them to spot the signs and to report any suspicions to the police or Crimestoppers,” said the Minister.
The Mayor Audrey Wales MBE, added, “I trust this educational resource will become an invaluable tool as our young citizens are educated on the dangers and exploitation of human trafficking.”
The launch was introduced by local woman Hazel Holmlund who represents Soroptimist International Northern Ireland on the Department of Justice’s Engagement Group on Human Trafficking and attends the All Party Group as an observer.
She expressed her appreciation to David Ford for his foresight in establishing the Engagement Group on Human Trafficking.
The main aim of the Group is to formalise and improve the engagement between the Department of Justice, police, health representatives and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) on the issue of human trafficking. She also thanked David McIlveen MLA for inviting observers at the All Party Group to participate in the discussion and ask questions of the speakers. The usual policy at All Party Groups is that only MLA’s or their assistants are permitted to speak or ask questions.
The Justice Minister explained that the pack was the first of its kind, and will help teachers to get the message across about the ‘nature and consequences of this evil crime.’
He continyed: “Earlier this year I published the Human Trafficking Action Plan and one of the key action points was to raise awareness amongst school pupils. I am grateful to Soroptimist International of Ballymena and the Ballymena Inter Ethnic Forum for holding this event to promote the resource pack.”
David McIlveen MLA, Chair of the Northern Ireland Assembly All Party Group on Human Trafficking, thanked Hazel and Ivy Ridge of Ballymena’s Inter-Ethnic Forum for their tireless work on the issue.