Triads force women into sex slavery: DOJ

POLICE believe Triads have been forcing women into sex slavery in Londonderry under threat of extreme violence, it can be revealed.

The report says the women were tricked into coming to Northern Ireland to “carry out cleaning and nannying jobs but were forced into prostitution through extreme violence” by Triad gangs in Londonderry and Belfast.

Local women are also being forced into prostitution by unscrupulous people and moved from one town to another to work in brothels, according to an in-depth Department of Justice report. Although the report was completed last year, press coverage then concentrated only on the details of the press release issued by the department.

However, the Sentinel can today reveal previously undisclosed but shocking details in the comprehensive report itself.

The report says women were tricked into coming to Northern Ireland to “carry out cleaning and nannying jobs but were forced into prostitution through extreme violence” by Triad gangs.

The research paper investigates a range of issues for women in Northern Ireland involved in prostitution. It was based on the testimony of three PSNI officers responsible for investigating prostitution and human trafficking in Northern Ireland, two based in Belfast and one in Londonderry, amongst other sources.

Whilst Chinese ‘snakehead’ gangs - a branch of the notorious Triad organised crime group - are said to have been involved in smuggling prostitutes through Stranraer to destinations including Belfast and Londonderry, local paramilitary groups are also said to have been involved in the vice trade.

DOJ says the PSNI believed that “one prostitution ring was run by the Chinese mafia and that all of the rescued women were Chinese.

“They were tricked to come to Northern Ireland from England under the premise that they would be carrying out cleaning of nannying jobs. They were forced into prostitution through extreme violence.”

Another instance refers to young women being lured from London to become involved in prostitution in Londonderry, South Belfast and Newry. Both occurred within the last three years.

According to the study: “The trafficked women experienced violence and lived in fear of their lives. They were regularly moved around brothels to disorientate them, Financial records showed that one of the brothels made between £180,000 and £200,000 a year.”

Victims are often smuggled through “a significant trafficking route used by Chinese Snakehead gangs is Belfast to Stranraer (western Scotland), where victims are forced to hand in papers to those that control them” the report states.

But it’s not just the Chinese mafia who have been involved in vice here. Local paramilitaries are also reputed to have been involved.

A Commercial Sex Workers paper compiled for the Western Sexual Health Strategy Steering Group (December 2008) shows that “one local voluntary organisation attempted to provide outreach to women involved in prostitution in Northern Ireland but was advised not to by the PSNI who confirmed that their safety would be at risk due to paramilitary involvement.”

Equally, Dudley (2006) “stated during a Joint Committee on Human Rights that her research on human trafficking includes anecdotal evidence from professionals that paramilitaries are involved in prostitution and human trafficking in Northern Ireland; but there is no defining evidence to prove this.”

Eddie Kerr, the former Director of the SEEDS, a multi-cultural support agency for ethnic minorities and migrant workers based in Londonderry, told the authors that brothels in the North West were highly mobile and were moving around to avoid detection.

The report advises: “The Director of SEEDS in Derry, which provides support to ethnic minorities and migrant workers, suggested that because Derry is a small city, brothels will be extremely mobile and some may operate for 2-4 weeks.

“This makes it difficult for the PSNI to keep track of the number of brothels in Northern Ireland and suggests that any figures should be taken as an approximation.”

The PSNI Analysis Centre is currently undertaking research on vice trends throughout the province to get a better understanding of the number of illegal brothels here.

Mr Kerr also said that Londonderry was not experiencing an increase in prostitution due to the recession.

The report states: “The Director of SEEDS in Derry noted that the number of women referred to its services has decreased since summer 2009, and that this may reflect a reduction in demand (due to the recession) or the increased vigilance of the UK Border Agency.”

Meanwhile the report also suggests that street prostitutes in Londonderry tend to be local women, whilst women working in brothels tend to be foreigners.

Incredibly, it also suggests women are being groomed and trafficked internally for work in the sex trade.

“The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (2009), have suggested in their research that in Derry, street prostitution is dominated by local women whilst indoor prostitution mainly consists of foreign women, suggesting that research is possible to identify the different experiences of trafficked and non-trafficked women.

“It is also necessary to note the concept of ‘internal trafficking,’ which was mentioned by speakers at the Blue Blindfold launch (an anti-trafficking drive). This is where women from Northern Ireland are groomed or coerced into the sex industry and then moved around the country to different brothels,” the report states.

The vice analysis says support is available for the victims of sex trafficking and that the Women’s Aid Federation (WAF) offers support to female victims of sexual exploitation.

“These women will be referred by the PSNI but some women have also been referred by other means,” it states. “Women’s Aid offers accommodation in both Derry and Belfast and women can stay past the recovery and reflection period of 45 days. The Migrant Helpline offers support to male victims and also to all victims of domestic servitude or forced labour (Organised Crime Task Force).”

A spokesperson for the PSNI told the Sentinel: “Police take a proactive and robust approach to tackling the issues of human trafficking and vice in every part of Northern Ireland. We work with a range of partner agencies to ensure potential victims are treated properly and offered appropriate levels of care.

“We also work with law enforcement partners in a number of jurisdictions to ensure offenders, whether they are organised criminals involved in trafficking or individuals buying sexual services from trafficked persons, are made amenable through the criminal justice system. We would appeal to anyone with information or suspicions about vice or trafficking to contact police.”