Despite initial technical difficulties preventing the live broadcast, the panel discussion on the 2024 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report went ahead and was made available for viewing immediately afterwards. This is the third year we have hosted an informal analysis and discussion on Ireland’s ranking in the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental efforts to combat human trafficking, published by the US Department of State.

This year’s discussion, moderated by John McGeady, CEO of Social Justice Ireland, brought together our collaborators, individuals committed to fighting what U.S. Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken calls a stain on the conscience of our society. The conversation was rich, insightful, and sobering.

John laid the groundwork by providing an overview of the TIP Report. The report categorises countries into four tiers based on their anti-trafficking measures.

Ireland, for the third consecutive year, remains in Tier 2. This ranking indicates that while some efforts are being made, they fall short of the minimum standards required to combat trafficking effectively.

Anne Keller of Religious in Europe Networking Against Trafficking and Exploitation (RENATE), provided critical context. Joining from London where she was attending the launch of RENATE’s research on legal assistance for trafficking victims, she shed light on the significant gaps in legal provisions for survivors across Europe, underscoring the importance of RENATE’s work in addressing these deficiencies. Keller explained the comprehensive definition of human trafficking according to the UN protocol, which includes recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring, or receipt of persons by means of threat, force, coercion, abduction, fraud, or abuse of power for the purpose of exploitation.

Gerry Ford of the Society of African Missions (SMA) delved into Ireland’s prosecution efforts as outlined in the TIP Report. Despite robust legislation, the actual prosecution and conviction rates for traffickers remain disappointingly low. In 2023, there were 83 ongoing investigations, but only two new prosecutions were initiated, both for labour trafficking. No convictions for trafficking offenses were recorded, with traffickers being convicted under other laws such as money laundering instead. Gerry emphasised the need for better use of evidence and improved interaction with victims to enhance prosecution rates. He stressed that proper training for judges and barristers on human trafficking cases is crucial for improving Ireland’s prosecution record.

Sr Liz Byrne IBVM, representing Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT), took the conversation further by focusing on the importance of an effective national referral mechanism for identifying and supporting trafficking victims. Currently, only the Gardaí can formally identify victims, which severely limits the support available to them. Upcoming legislative changes aim to broaden this capacity to other bodies, including NGOs. Liz highlighted the lack of adequate accommodation and psychological support for trafficking survivors, emphasizing the need for trauma-sensitive environments. While provisions for victims’ support exist on paper, their actual implementation often falls short, as identified by monitoring bodies like GRETA.

Anne Keller reiterated the significance of awareness-raising as a primary prevention strategy. She pointed out various sectors where trafficking victims might be found, such as car washes, nail bars, and massage parlours, stressing the importance of public vigilance. Educational programs in schools and community initiatives are critical to this effort. Anne mentioned the “Captives” educational program developed by APT Ireland, which aims to inform and engage students on the realities of human trafficking. This program, along with other awareness campaigns, plays a vital role in preventing trafficking by educating the public and fostering a culture of vigilance and support for victims.

Throughout the discussion, the panelists emphasised the interconnectedness of prevention, protection, and prosecution in combating human trafficking. They argued that successful identification of victims is crucial not only for providing necessary support but also for building strong cases against traffickers, thereby deterring future crimes. While Ireland has made some progress, significant gaps remain, particularly in victim identification and comprehensive support mechanisms.

The event highlighted the need for continued efforts and collaboration among various stakeholders. There was a shared urgency to improve the national referral mechanism, enhance training and resources for law enforcement and legal professionals, and expand public awareness campaigns.

The fight against human trafficking is far from over, and the insights shared by our panelists underscore the urgent need for collective action. As we strive to protect the most vulnerable among us, it’s crucial to engage in conversations, spread awareness, and utilize available resources. By sharing this discussion and the TIP Report, you can play a pivotal role in driving change and advocating for stronger protections, significantly aiding in achieving justice for victims. Your engagement and actions are vital in our mission to combat human trafficking.

Find the reports here:

2023 Trafficking in Persons Report: Ireland

2024 Trafficking in Persons Report