It Matters to Me - Seamus Heaney

Fellow classmates it is a pleasure to have all you gathered here in front of me - It Matters to Me - Seamus Heaney introduction. Today I would like to talk about something, which I feel strongly about.

You may be unaware of this but the issue, which I wish to talk about, costs Northern Ireland’s workers millions of pounds each year and is an enormous money-spinner for illegal organisations such as the Russian Mafia.

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The issue which some of you may have figured out is the trafficking of illegal immigrant workers into Northern Ireland’s economy. Each year thousands of immigrant workers mainly from Eastern European origin flood the region and work in large farms or factories such as Moy Park chickens in Dungannon.

On arrival in Ireland, North or South these people worm their way through airport security using false documentation where they usually meet a representative of the people who are orchestrating the crime. When the immigrant workers arrive at their final location they use the excuse that they are tourists if confronted by the authorities.

You may be wondering how this issue affects us. The immigrant workers are giving local employers the opportunity to employ workers for a cheaper wage, which leaves many local employees unwanted, and in the cold, thus saving the company huge costs. In the last year there has been a rise of 6000 people unemployed in Northern Ireland. A Westminster politician has pointed out that ” The decade from 1990 to 2000, the UK had experienced a rise of over 1,200 in the number of people caught trying to evade border controls. Human trafficking may be one of the reasons that unemployment figures have increased.

Gangs prey on poverty-stricken families in developing countries through bribery, trickery and coercion to persuade them to go to the West for a better life, (children have also been known to be sent). When these people arrive here they receive half the pay that local workers earn for carrying out exactly the same work, Many of the immigrant workers are forced to live in totally appalling conditions which some farmers would be unwilling to keep their animals in. These terrible conditions were highlighted by BBC Northern Ireland’s undercover Spotlight programme. Some of the culprits who employ these workers were also filmed.

It is because of profit making gangsters that eight Romanian people (including children) were found dead in the back of a lorry in Wexford. Bertie Ahern commented on this discovery saying that “the criminals involved in the cruel trade of human trafficking have perpetrated yet another atrocity on the innocent victims of their greed.” These immigrants live horrid lives in their country of origin and feel they have no other choice but to take this route.

We must not look at these people as criminals but as victims of the horrifying, human trafficking trade.

According to Interpol, gangs involved have links with Mafia organisations in France, Germany and Italy have been reported to have charged people around �1000 to make the journey.

A Chinese gang based in Belfast, with connections to loyalist paramilitaries, have been said to charge work seekers �10 000 per person for transport to Northern Ireland, This usually takes place in the back of a cramped lorry which sometimes leads to death, generally from suffocation

The UN has estimated that illegal immigration is worth between �15bn and �30bn a year.

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have been renowned for emigration to countries such as America. This situation has been reversed and the whole island has now become a magnet for immigrants searching for a better life. It is estimated that 30 000 immigrants have come here in the last four years.

I think the resolution for this issue is to either let a limited number of immigrants into the country legally to work in acceptable conditions at fair rates or totally crack down on any immigrant seeking asylum or work in the province.

Thank you for listening attentively; you have been an excellent audience.

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