Sinn Féin MLA for the area Megan Fearon believed migrants are being used “to maximise the profits of unscrupulous gangs” while another councillor says the fact it happened in the small village of Newtown “really brings home the reality of this crime”.
“While I’m obviously delighted and relieved that these people have been rescued, the discovery of a possible trafficking operation on this scale certainly highlights the extent to which this vile trade has become a major problem across the western world and shows that Ireland has not escaped its impact,” she Ms Fearon.
She added: “Every year people are being brought illegally into Ireland in order to maximise the profits of unscrupulous gangs. Most of the people trafficked are forced to work for little or no pay and in dreadful conditions.
“It is important that the issue of human trafficking is addressed and in order to do so we need more co-operation between the Police Services, Immigration Services, Departments of Health and the Departments of Justice across Europe.
“Here we need a co-ordinated all-Ireland approach if we are to successfully halt this form of human slavery. Policing is key to resolving the problem and there needs to be a harsher approach against those who exploit these vulnerable people for their own gain.”
Area councillor Barra Ó Muirí said the discovery was shocking.
“A discovery like this really shows why human trafficking is known as ‘the invisible crime,” he said.
“For a possible trafficking operation of this scale to be found in a small, rural village in south Armagh, it really brings home the reality of this crime; that it isn’t limited to larger countries or major cities, it could be happening anywhere.
“In the immediate aftermath of this discovery my thoughts are of course with the potential victims and I understand that they are now being assisted by a number of agencies. However, in the longer term this is an issue that we are going to have to tackle on both a local and national scale.
“Nationally, we need to see the authorities north and south working together to combat this dreadful crime. Locally, people need to be vigilant and aware that this can happen where you least expect it and closer to home than you might think.
“I’d urge anyone with information about human trafficking or who is a victim of trafficking to contact the PSNI or Gardai.”