Police suspect that Chinese Triad gangs have been forcing women into sex slavery in Derry and Belfast according to a Department of Justice vice report.

According to the report, which was compiled last year, women came to Northern Ireland under false pretences to “carry out cleaning and nannying jobs but were forced into prostitution through extreme violence” by the gangs involved.

The report suggests that pop-up brothels, operating for two to three weeks at a time, were operating in Derry city.

The Londonderry Sentinel reports that the brothel-based prostitution is exploiting mostly foreign women, while the street prostitution is being dominated by local women.

A branch of the Triad organized crime group known as Chinese ‘snakehead’ gangs are said to have been involved in smuggling the women through Stranraer in Scotland to cities including Belfast and Derry. Local paramilitary groups were also alleged to have been involved.

The report is based on three PSNI officers tasked on investigating prostitution and human trafficking in Northern Ireland. It said 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 or nannying jobs. They were forced into prostitution through extreme violence,” a spokesman told the Londonderry Sentinel.

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.”

The report states victims were often smuggled through “a significant trafficking route used by Chinese Snakehead gangs [which] is Belfast to Stranraer, where victims are forced to hand in papers to those that control them”.

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.”