Mrs Lockhart said,
‘‘Sexual exploitation is happening in every part of Northern Ireland. Victims of modern slavery are often described as being hidden in plain sight. Police enforcement alone will never be enough. Public awareness must be transformed if we are to prevent harm and ensure earlier intervention.
These women who have been rescued will now have an opportunity to rebuild their lives and have been saved from a life of slavery. It is crucial that they get the support they deserve.
The DUP successfully campaigned to ensure the Justice Bill passed by the last Assembly included a statutory commitment to provide tailored support to slavery victims for up to 12 months, and longer, where necessary. This will be critical to ensuring the risk of re-trafficking is mitigated.
The 2015 Human Trafficking Act spearheaded by my colleague Lord Morrow set the standard for how we crack down on those criminal gangs who promote and profit from sexual exploitation. It is encouraging that policing outcomes are now starting to reflect that vision.
As a result of DUP policy and campaigns, Northern Ireland is leading the rest of the British Isles by empowering victims to become survivors and avoid the risk of re-trafficking. But now is the time to stamp out trafficking once and for all in Northern Ireland.”