The Trafficking in Persons or TIP Report is the world’s most comprehensive report on governmental anti-trafficking efforts. It is published by the U.S. State Department every year and ranks each country based on their anti-trafficking efforts.
Ireland has been ranked on tier 2: Watch List for the second year in a row because the Government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Below is an outline of Ireland’s efforts to prosecute traffickers, protect victims of trafficking and prevent trafficking.
Ireland’s Trafficking Profile
As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Ireland, and also exploit victims from Ireland abroad. Furthermore, Irish children are trafficked for sex within Ireland. Human trafficking in Ireland is likely much higher than official statistics report: A 2021 study found that from 2014 to 2019, the true number of victims was 38 percent higher than official statistics.
Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America. In recent years, an increase has been reported in suspected victims from Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Romania. In Ireland, traffickers exploit victims of forced labour in domestic work, the restaurant industry, cannabis cultivation, nail salons, food processing, waste management, fishing, seasonal agriculture, and car washing services. Undocumented workers in the fishing industry and domestic workers such as au pairs, are vulnerable to trafficking. Migrant workers from Egypt and the Philippines are vulnerable to forced labour on fishing vessels. Women from Eastern Europe, forced into marriages in Ireland, are at risk of sex trafficking and forced labour.
Prosecution: Ireland’s Anti-Trafficking Law Enforcement
The 2008 Human Trafficking Act, amended in 2013, criminalizes human trafficking in Ireland with penalties up to life imprisonment. However, according to the 2021 TIP Report, Irish law enforcement efforts were inadequate in 2020.
Investigations and Prosecutions
The Garda Síochána anti-trafficking unit reported investigating 22 suspects in 2020 (15 for sex trafficking and seven for labour trafficking), compared with 39 investigations in 2019. Prosecutions were initiated for only three sex trafficking suspects in 2020. No prosecutions were initiated for labour trafficking. For the seventh year in a row, no traffickers were convicted under the anti-trafficking law in 2020, this is despite 508 victims reportedly identified since 2013. The courts did convict one trafficker under another law after he pleaded guilty to false imprisonment; he had yet to be sentenced at the end of the reporting period. However, for the first time, there were two prosecutions of traffickers under the 2013 law in 2021, after the reporting period for the 2021 Report. In February 2021, the government established a new specialized police unit, which focuses on vulnerable populations within the commercial sex industry. Identifying trafficking victims is a priority for this unit.
Capacity and Training
Although the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had a specialized team responsible for prosecuting trafficking crimes, there were no specialized judges to hear trafficking cases, and judges often had little understanding of trafficking crimes. Furthermore, courts were shut down for 16 weeks in 2020 due to the pandemic, which postponed the vast majority of jury trials to 2021. Civil society groups recommended training for law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary regarding the complexities of commercial sex and sex trafficking, as well as non-punishment of trafficking victims. Two officials from the criminal justice police unit were trained in 2020, as well as other justice department officials and members of the legal aid board. However, the government was unable to train any police recruits due to pandemic-related restrictions. The government also failed to report how many officials received training in total.
In 2020, law enforcement cooperated in an international investigation with the United Kingdom, which resulted in the identification of five trafficking victims in the UK and Ireland. The government continued to coordinate with INTERPOL, including information and intelligence sharing. In 2020, the government received 19 European arrest warrants for suspected human traffickers and arrested nine suspects from warrants issued by Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and the UK. The government also extradited three suspects—one to France and two to the UK.
Protection: Identification and Assistance to Trafficked Persons
Authorities identified 38 trafficking victims in 2020. This was the fourth consecutive year of decreasing victim identification and the fewest number of victims identified since 2013. According to this year’s TIP Report, Irish efforts to protect victims were inadequate in 2020.
Trafficked Persons’ Profile
Of the 38 victims identified, 26 were exploited in sex trafficking and 12 in labour trafficking, which included two victims of forced criminality. All were adults, 33 were female and five were male. Unlike 2019, when the government identified nine child trafficking victims, no child victims were identified. No Irish nationals were identified as victims of trafficking in 2020.
Efforts to Identify Trafficked Persons
Although labour inspectors have conducted 7,687 inspections, no trafficking victims have been identified as part of these inspections since 2017. There are also concerns that since the atypical working scheme for sea fishers was amended in 2019, zero trafficking victims have been identified in the fishing industry.
Formal identification as a trafficking victim is necessary to access relevant supports provided through the national referral mechanism. However, a 2021 study concluded that in reality there was no formal victim identification as the process lacked specific criteria. The competence to formally identify trafficking victims rests solely with An Garda Síochána. The TIP Report noted potential conflict of priorities between law enforcement efforts and victim assistance. Furthermore, formal procedures for victim identification were valid only for victims lacking legal residency in Ireland. Those with a right to reside in Ireland were excluded from formal identification, regardless of exploitation by traffickers.
Supports for Trafficked Persons
Victims unwilling to go to the Gardaí could not access formal supports through the referral mechanism and instead had to go through NGOs for supports. In 2017, the government reported plans to institute a revised referral mechanism; however, the revised mechanism has not yet been issued.
The government provides accommodation for victims and potential victims in the direct provision system designed to accommodate asylum seekers. However, mixed-gender housing in the system provides inadequate privacy: it is unsuitable and potentially unsafe for traumatized victims, and isolates them from other available services. Accommodation in the direct provision system was particularly strained in 2020, due to a housing shortage and decreased housing capacity as a result of social distancing requirements. While the government announced plans to phase out the direct provision system, no concrete steps to do so were taken during the reporting period.
Prevention: Efforts to Raise Awareness and Prevent Human Trafficking
According to this year’s TIP Report, the Irish government did increase prevention efforts in 2020.
Building Capacity to Prevent Trafficking
The criminal justice policy unit of the Department of Justice was responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking efforts nationally. In 2020, the policy unit established a national anti-trafficking forum. The forum focused on bridging the gaps between police and victims to improve evidence collection. Furthermore, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was appointed as independent national rapporteur with responsibility for monitoring human trafficking policy. However, despite progress, it remains uncertain whether the government followed its national anti-trafficking action plan. The plan, adopted in 2016, had no end date, timeframe, budget allocation, or indication of agencies responsible for implementation.
The government launched a national public awareness campaign in 2020, in partnership with an international organization. The government also maintained a website that provides information on human trafficking and encourages the public to report possible cases of trafficking. Additionally, the government provided €137,700 to NGOs for anti-trafficking public awareness campaigns and the development of training material for front-line officials, an increase compared to 2019.
The government did not report investigating or prosecuting any labour recruitment agencies for labour trafficking in 2020. As noted above, the workplace relations commission conducted 7,687 labour inspections in 2020, an increase from 2019; however, it did not report identifying any trafficking victims through these inspections. Au pairs were identified as vulnerable to trafficking: employers regularly paid them less than minimum wage and forced them to work more than the maximum of 20 hours per week. However, the workplace relations commission did not have the authority to regulate agencies that recruit au pairs. There were also concerns about the lack of authority on the part of the commission to address violations regarding the number of hours worked on fishing vessels. In order to respond to vulnerabilities created by the pandemic, the government did permit migrants that became undocumented to access unemployment payments. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex by funding research and awareness raising projects. This funding amounted to €96,050.
What the Irish Government did:
In 2020, the Government designated an independent human trafficking national rapporteur and established a formal national anti-trafficking forum. The government also launched a national public awareness campaign, and provided increased funding for victim assistance and training.
Where the Irish Government fell short:
However, overall the government did not increase efforts compared to 2019, even considering the impact of the pandemic. While courts convicted one trafficker under false imprisonment charges, by the end of 2020 the government still had not obtained a single trafficking conviction under the anti-trafficking law since it was amended in 2013. However, for the first time, there were two prosecutions of traffickers under the 2013 law in 2021. In 2020, fewer suspected traffickers were investigated and prosecuted, there were no prosecutions of suspected labour traffickers, and victim identification decreased for the fourth year in a row. Systemic deficiencies remain in victim identification, referral, and assistance.
Therefore Ireland remains on the Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year.
The TIP Report outlined a series of priority recommendations. These included:
- Update and adopt a national anti-trafficking action plan.
- Investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers using the trafficking law.
- Systematically train law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges on a victim-centred approach.
- Exempt trafficking victims from prosecution for criminal acts they were forced to commit.
- Prioritize the investigation of fraudulent labour recruitment and labour trafficking, and prosecute as trafficking rather than labour code violations.
- Issue a revised referral mechanism.
- Allow formal victim identification by and referral from entities other than An Garda Síochána.
- Allow all victims to access the national referral mechanism without requiring cooperation with law enforcement.
- Offer specialized accommodation to trafficking victims that is safe and appropriate.
- Establish a national hotline to report trafficking and provide assistance and referral.
- Effectively regulate and monitor agencies that recruit domestic workers and au pairs.
To read the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report in full visit https://www.state.gov/reports/2021-trafficking-in-persons-report/