A rise in human trafficking from Romania and Nigeria drove a 73% increase in sex exploitation and forced labour cases in Ireland last year, according to a US Government report.
The US State Department report also strongly criticised the Irish Government for prosecuting people who they had failed to identify as suspected victims of forced criminal activity.
The report shows that the number of suspected human trafficking victims jumped from 46 in 2014 to 78 in 2015 — and that 22 of these were children.
The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2016 said Irish authorities identified 48 suspected victims of sex trafficking and 28 suspected victims exploited for labour trafficking.
In relation to labour exploitation, the report said the continuing failure of the Irish State to identify trafficking victims among those prosecuted and imprisoned for criminal activity “remained a serious concern”.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said “urgent action” was needed to protect victims against rising incidents of human trafficking.
The report said Ireland was a “destination and source country” for women, men and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour — including forced criminal activity.
It said authorities reported an increase in suspected victims from Romania and Nigeria in 2015.
The report said the 78 victims identified by garda authorities in 2015 included:
The report raised concern about the prosecution of people for criminal activity without establishing whether or not they were victims of labour trafficking.
This included people working in cannabis cultivation farms, many controlled by Vietnamese or Chinese crime gangs.
It said gardaí reported 70 Asian nationals in prison related to cannabis offences, including 30 cases where the defendants were in pre-trial detention.
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