NI: Sugden makes opening address at labour exploitation conference

Justice Minister Claire Sugden
Justice Minister Claire Sugden

Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister Claire Sugden yesterday gave the opening address at the annual Cross Border Conference on modern slavery and trafficking for labour exploitation.

In her address, Ms Sugden identified modern slavery as a horrific crime which treats victims as commodities and robs them of their basic human rights.

The conference was focussed on engagement with the private sector to raise awareness of the indicators of serious labour exploitation and to advise them on how to prevent it in their businesses and supply chains.

Around 100 business representatives from both side of the border attended the conference.

Speaking at the conference, Ms Sugden said: “Modern slavery has long been a largely hidden crime so I welcome the opportunity in my first formal cross border engagement to shine a light on this very serious issue so that we can all learn to recognise it, to understand it better and ultimately to eradicate it from these islands.

“Today’s conference focuses on forced labour, specifically in the supply chain. It allows us to further develop lines of communication with the private sector to ensure that employers and businesses are equipped to recognise suspicious signs of exploitation and to know where to report this safely.

“It is encouraging to see the agriculture, horticulture, fishing and retail sectors all represented here as it demonstrates their commitment to working in partnership with Government and law enforcement agencies to stamp out forced labour in their supply chains and workforce.

“In the past year there have been positive developments notably the recent Memorandum of Understanding between the UK Gangmasters Licensing Authority and the Irish Workplace Relations Commission which is ensuring that agencies on both sides of our border can deliver an effective joined-up response to modern slavery across both jurisdictions.”

She added: “My Department works closely with the Department of Justice and Equality and I know there are also good working relationships between law enforcement agencies north and south.

“As Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland I am committed to building on those relationships and working closely with Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality on tackling modern slavery and on a range of cross border issues.”

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