Lord Maurice Morrow took part in a Stop the Traffik talk in the Great Hall at Queen’s University last night (23rd March 2016).
The free discussion was organised by Stop the Traffik Belfast. A Facebook message about the event said that their aim is to answer the question: how can we stop human trafficking?
However, Lord Morrow said that he does not think that this is actually possible.
He said: “I don’t believe that we can wipe it out.”
He went on to explain that what we can do is deal harshly with the traffickers.
“I genuinely don’t believe that any more than our forefathers who brought legislation to deal with murder, to deal with robberies; we still have those things, but now we have tougher legislation to deal with it,” he said.
Lord Morrow is part of the Assembly’s All Party Group on Human Trafficking.
He talked about his own surprise at hearing that trafficking actually occurs here.
He said: “To my shame, I would have been saying: (a few years ago) human trafficking in Northern Ireland, really?”
He went on to say that “Human trafficking does happen here in Northern Ireland, thankfully not in a scale as other countries, but unfortunately and sadly it does, but I believe that with better awareness around human trafficking we can curtail it.”
Lord Morrow also sponsored the Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill, which makes Northern Ireland the only part of the UK where paying for sex is a criminal offence.
I asked him about the argument made by some sex workers that the bill drives sex work underground.
He said: “This is often used that we are driving it underground […] it is already underground as much as it can be and […] I don’t think we can drive it any further underground.”
Lord Morrow described trafficking as “modern day slavery” and said that it is up to those who are in politics who “have a duty and a responsibility” to try to stop the traffik.