PROSTITUTION is Northern Ireland’s most successful enterprise, making some £30m per year profit, an MLA has said.
David McIlveen of the DUP made the disclosure at the launch of a new human trafficking education and campaigning project, called Freedom Acts, which officially opened in Craigavon on Friday.
Mr McIlveen, who sits on the Stormont all party group on human trafficking and is a member of the Policing Board, says his figures have come from the PSNI.
“The annual turnover of prostitution in Northern Ireland is some £35m per year, of which about £30m is clear profit, the overhead expenses are comparatively low,” he said.
“By comparison Northern Ireland’s most successful business, Moy Park made £27m last year. Another major business, Almac, made only around £18.6m by comparison.
“That makes prostitution Northern Ireland’s most successful enterprise.”
He said the PSNI has supplied him with the figures, with estimates that there are some 200 women and teenage girls working as prostitutes in Northern Ireland, seeing about five men per day each.
His colleague David Simpson MP, who sits on the Westminster all party group on Human Trafficking, told guests that some 800 men in Northern Ireland use prostitutes every day, which he described as “rape for profit”.
Children between the ages of 10-13 are being sold for £16,000 on the streets of London for sexual exploitation, he added.
Advocates for prostitution argue that very few prostitutes work in that role against their will. But many campaigners counter that the majority of prostitutes are groomed into the role as vulnerable children, that others end up in the role to escape grinding poverty overseas while yet others are forced into it as vulnerable foreign nationals.
Campaigners all came together on Friday at The Hub in Craigavon for the official launch of Freedom Acts, a project being funded for three years by Comic Relief and operating under Craigavon Intercultural Project.
Its two workers, Melanie Wiggins and Laura Wylie, had previously set up an umbrella group to counter human trafficking in which Craigavon Borough Council, the PSNI and Women’s Aid all play a role.
Melanie told the audience on Friday, “Our aim is to make Northern Ireland a dangerous place for human traffickers and a safe place for the vulnerable people they exploit.
“We want to educate young people, provide advice to organisations who request it and to empower young people to become activists.”
The project also aims to lobby government about effective steps to tackle human trafficking at grassroots level.
To contact Freedom Acts call 028 3839 3372 or see http://www.craigavonintercultural.org/content/project-freedom-acts