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Extradition sought after ‘slave’ found in Belfast

Police are trying to extradite suspected human traffickers from India after a woman was discovered in Belfast being held as a domestic slave.

The victim, who is also from Indian and in her 20s, was freed by chance after neighbours in the affluent south of the city found her locked out of a house wearing hardly any clothes in the middle of the night.

The Indian family who lived in the property where the woman was being held has since fled back to their home country.

Details of the case were revealed by Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris as the Organised Crime Task Force announced that 23 victims of human trafficking were rescued in Northern Ireland last year.

The majority, 18, were being forced to work in the sex trade but the others were compelled into manual labour or domestic servitude.

Harris warned there could be other slaves being held in secret in Northern Ireland, noting 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 neighbours reported this as being suspicious," he said.

"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."

Two years on from the incident, the victim is recovering from her ordeal and has been provided education and job opportunities by authorities in Northern Ireland.

Harris said his officers were still actively pursuing the suspects.

"They went back to India but we haven't given up on it," he said.

"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."

The senior officer said police had also found victims being held in fast food restaurants in Northern Ireland.

"These people are in dire straights in terms of just being imprisoned in fast food restaurants, in the upper stories of fast food restaurants," he said.

"Their life was 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."

Harris said it was a form of modern day slavery.

"There`s no money, there`s no personal freedom so it`s as good as (slavery)," he said.

"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."

PA Media