The number of children suspected of being trafficked for sexual exploitation has more than trebled, according to official figures.
The Annual Report of Trafficking in Human Beings in Ireland for 2012 shows 23 minors were reported as victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2012, compared with seven in 2011.
The report, compiled by the anti-human trafficking unit in the Department of Justice, said 19 of the 23 victims were Irish minors.
“Of particular note in the 2012 report is the increase in the number of minors  who were reported as victims of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, the significant majority of whom  were Irish,” said the report.”
It said none of the 19 Irish minors were reported to have been exploited in the context of prostitution.
“While being victims of sexual exploitation, these children suffered sexual offences relating to child pornography, sexual assault and sexual indecency, rather than what might be termed ‘commercial sexual exploitation’ such as exploitation through prostitution,” it said.
The figures show that while there were four minors suspected of having been involved in labour trafficking in 2011, there were no such reports in 2012.
The total figures show that human trafficking of minors rose from 13 cases in 2011 to 23 in 2012, a rise of almost 80%.
Overall, the 2012 study reported that:
- 48 people were reported victims of human trafficking (57 in 2011);
- 39 people were suspected victims of sex trafficking (37);
- 6 people were reported victims of labour trafficking (13);
- 25 victims of all exploitation were adults (44);
- 23 victims were minors (13).
A breakdown of where victims come from show that 19 were from Ireland, a sharp rise on 2011, when it was just six. There has been a significant drop in numbers from West Africa: Eight in 2012, compared with 23 in 2011.
In relation to immigration status, 32 were asylum seekers in 2011, falling to eight in 2012.
Gardaí initiated 37 investigations in 2012, compared to 53 investigations in 2011. Some 17 investigations were ongoing and 11 were before the courts.
Commenting on the report, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said: “The trafficking of human beings is an appalling crime and a gross violation of human rights, which can have potentially devastating effects on its victims.
“With regard to the abhorrent human trafficking of children for the purposes of sexual exploitation, it is important that we recognise that the offences that are reported for 2012 arise predominantly outside of the context of prostitution.
“Human trafficking is very broadly defined in Irish legislation and offences relating to child pornography, for example, may often contain the elements of human trafficking — such as recruitment and sexual exploitation — that will bring such actions within the legal definition of human trafficking.”
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