Police in Belfast want to extradite suspected human traffickers from India after a woman was rescued from life as a domestic slave in the City.
The Indian victim, a young woman in her 20s, was freed by chance after neighbors in an upmarket suburb found her locked out of a nearby house.
The victim was only partially clothed when the neighbors were alerted to the woman wandering around looking for help in the middle of the night.
The police called to the scene subsequently discovered that the woman was being held as a domestic slave.
The Indian family living in the property where she was held have since fled back to their own country and are now wanted by Northern Ireland police anxious to charge them over the way the woman was treated.
Her case is just one of 23 human trafficking investigations currently under investigation by Belfast police.
The details of this particular case were revealed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris.
He spoke as the PSNI’s Organized Crime Task Force confirmed that 23 victims of human trafficking were rescued in Northern Ireland last year.
Of the 23, 18 were forced to work in the sex trade with the remainder subjected to manual labor or domestic servitude.
Harris outlined police fears of other slaves being held in secret in Northern Ireland in light of the fact that the Indian woman was only rescued by chance.
“That was only uncovered because she was locked out of the house in the cold weather and had no protective clothing and neighbors reported this as being suspicious,” said Harris.
“It was an Indian family and this person was being treated as, in effect, an indentured servant with no pay, her passport held and all of that.”
The victim is now recovering from her ordeal and has been provided with educational and job opportunities by local authorities in Northern Ireland while the police continue to pursue her captors.
“They went back to India but we haven’t given up on it,” said Harris. “It`s just a long process. We know where they are in India and that will just take it`s time, but we do hope to get them back.
“There are other victims here, many of them in the food industry. These people are in dire straits in terms of just being imprisoned in fast food restaurants, in the upper stories of fast food restaurants.
“Their life is just working in this fast food restaurant for no pay and no money at all and being required to work, being told they are ‘going to work like this for 18 months or two years to pay off the debt you owe us (the traffickers) for getting you here’.
“That’s happened with Bangladeshis in particular.”
Assistant Chief Constable Harris described the human trafficking as modern day slavery.
He added: “There`s no money, there`s no personal freedom so it`s as good as slavery.
“You’re not being paid, you`re working off a debt and you have no personal freedoms at all, so you can`t communicate with family or friends, you`ve no freedom of movement because you have no passport so you are locked down, so you haven`t the means to actually escape your situation.”