Justice Minister David Ford has published a progress report against the first annual human trafficking action plan for Northern Ireland.

The action plan, published in May 2013, identified key priorities across a range of areas such as prevention; support and protection for victims and; investigation and prosecution.

Human trafficking is an appalling crime where victims are robbed of their basic rights and forced into a life of slavery. I published Northern Ireland’s first annual action plan to set strategic direction and to lay essential groundwork on which to build a robust response to tackling human trafficking. Whilst there is no room for complacency, I am pleased that good progress has been made in the course of the year with a number of important developments delivered.

Key progress included the enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2013 which brought Northern Ireland’s criminal law into line with the EU Directive on human trafficking; targeted work to raise awareness of the issue; and the development of an education resource pack for teachers of year 10 and Key Stage 4 pupils.

David Ford, Justice Minister

The Department has also been working to strengthen human trafficking legislation. The Minister has been working constructively with Lord Morrow on amendments to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill and has consulted on a range of new proposals to strengthen Northern Ireland’s response to human trafficking and slavery and the responses are currently being analysed.

The Department of Justice’s statutory and civil society partners, including the Immigration and Human Trafficking subgroup of the Organised Crime Task Force (OCTF); the Human Trafficking Engagement Group; and partners in local government all played an integral role in delivering against the action plan.

Human trafficking cannot be dealt with by my Department working in isolation. I am grateful for the contribution of all our delivery partners. Their insight, dedication and enthusiasm has proved invaluable and I am encouraged by the working partnerships that have continued to strengthen over the past year as we fight this dreadful crime.

David Ford, Justice Minister

The Department is in the process of finalising the Northern Ireland Human Trafficking and Exploitation Action Plan 2014-15 and plans to publish this in coming weeks. You can read the full progress report here.