Fleeing Danger, Facing Exploitation: Refugees and the menace of Human Trafficking
By Erin Neill
June 21, 2024

When conflict strikes, many people are impacted and forced to leave their homes to ensure safety. Displaced people can become separated from family members and friends, leaving them uncertain if those close to them will be reunited or remain safe. They have had to leave jobs or education to begin over in a new country and losing their support system with no access to their local communities or resources. This displaced population may enter Northern Ireland seeking safety but without secure immigration status leaving them unable to access our resources to aid them in rebuilding their life and feeling secure. They have lost a part of themselves having to leave a place they called home, leaving them at risk of exploitation and human trafficking. There are other factors that force people to migrate such as the climate crisis which we blogged about previously here. Those who are displaced and attempting to find safety can be trafficked on route to their destination country or brought to a country and trafficked there.

At Invisible Traffick a lot of our work revolves around children and young people. Refugee children up until the age of 15 have had less limitations when finding school placements. However, many over the age of 15 who had been attending school previously in their home country have met disruptions from education since seeking refuge. Young refugees are seeking to continue their education as a way of improving their quality of life since moving and to give back to the Country that has offered them safety. Many have reported being unable to access further education or assistance with learning English as the support for this has a waiting list period of over a year. Some find it difficult to navigate the application system in place for higher education and not enough support available to assist them.

Currently Northern Ireland has no Refugee Integration Strategy, however we have resettled a significant percentage of refugees. The impact of this means we do not have the resources or the ability to properly safeguard refugees from exploitation and effectively integrate them into our communities. The lack of legislation and practice is allowing individuals to be trafficked across the North and South of Ireland. Without a hard boarder individuals coerced into trafficking are easily transported throughout the Island of Ireland undetected and unable to reach out for support. Refugees are facing so many limitations during their resettling after everything else they have gone through. Their human rights during this time of change are not respected and neglected by the lack of support available. Being unable to access further education, employment, support for mental health and a safe and secure place to live. All these aspects are leaving these individuals at risk of exploitation. The challenge to each of us is to look out for our neighbours regardless of wherever they have come from and help create communities of change as global citizens, challenge our government for policies to safeguard those seeking asylum. Together we can bring change and make the Invisible, Visible.

Sources

Syrian refugees: Highest proportion resettled in Northern Ireland – BBC News

iom_uk_ni-nrm-annual-review-2023.pdf

Exploitation and the UK asylum system | Research report (redcross.org.uk)

‘No political will’ to deliver for Northern Ireland’s ethnic minorities – BBC News

Northern Ireland: Young asylum seekers face restricted access to education – BBC News

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