Crackdown targets 'slave-trade' trafficking
A NEW crackdown on organised crime aims to prevent routes between the island of Ireland and Scotland being turned into "channels for crooks and gangsters".
The drive will focus particularly on the human trafficking trade that was turning its victims "almost into slaves".
The crackdown on the prostitution racket was top of the agenda for the first trilateral meeting between the authorities from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
The talks held outside Dundalk yesterday were hosted by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and involved his Northern counterpart David Ford and Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill.
Last week Mr Ford admitted that Northern Ireland was a "staging post" for human traffickers operating between Scotland and the Republic.
He said yesterday that his jurisdiction had also become a destination for the gangs behind what he called "this absolutely foul crime".
It followed the arrest of a Scotland-based group alleged to have been forcing trafficked victims into prostitution.
Raids led to the closure of 13 brothels, seven of them in Belfast, and the rescue of 12 female and three male victims.
Members of the garda national immigration bureau are currently liaising closely with agencies across the Border and in Britain and have taken part in a number of joint operations to combat the criminals.
Mr Ahern has invited Scotland to send representatives to the next cross-border organised crime conference, due to take place next week.
Mr MacAskill said organised crime did not respect national boundaries and the gangs were now operating globally.
"Given our geographical proximity, we need to ensure that the routes to and from our countries are safe and not channels for crooks and gangsters."