Ireland not doing enough on human trafficking, US report says

Report says lack of ‘people trade’ convictions since 2013 a concern.

Ireland has been downgraded in a US ranking of countries that are meeting minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

In its landmark Trafficking of Persons Report 2018, the US State Department relegated Ireland from Tier 1 to Tier 2 — categorising those countries which, while making significant efforts, are not meeting US minimum standards.

It said that although Ireland had made significant efforts, by collaborating with international investigations and increasing funding for victim services, these were not “serious and sustained”, compared to its record in the previous year.

The report, just published, said: “The government has not obtained a trafficking conviction since the law was amended, in 2013; it initiated only three prosecutions in 2017, and had chronic deficiencies in victim-identification and referral.”

It said the Government had “decreased” law-enforcement efforts. It said 115 new trafficking-related cases were initiated in 2017, compared to 90 in 2016 and 91 in 2015.

It said most of these cases did not involve trafficking by force, fraud, or coercion for exploitation.

It said that 65 of the 115 involved sexual exploitation, 35 involved labour exploitation, five involved forced criminality, five involved immigration offences, one involved organised begging, and two were uncategorised.

The authorities prosecuted three individuals for forced labour, and two additional trafficking cases, with six perpetrators, were awaiting trial.

It said the Government identified 103 suspected trafficking victims (including four child victims), compared to 95 in 2016 and 78 in 2015.

Of the victims identified, 63 were exploited in sex trafficking and 35 in labour trafficking. Some 68 victims were female and 35 male, and 28 were Irish, 14 Romanian, 12 Indonesian, and 12 Nigerian.

Experts raised concerns about the Government’s “inability” to identify trafficking victims, and NGOs and other front-line responders did not have a formal role in the identification process.

The report said that no legally-mandated psychological assistance was provided for victims of trafficking and said counselling services provided by NGOs were insufficient.

It said the Government had not made efforts “to reduce the demand for sex trafficking or forced labour” and did not fund the operation of a national hotline on trafficking.

It did note that the Garda Síochána had a dedicated email for reports of trafficking and took action stemming from 31 emails.

The report said that, as it had stated over the past five years, Ireland was a destination and a source country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, including forced criminal activity.

It said victims came from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe.

“Authorities have reported an increase in suspected victims from Nigeria, Romania, Indonesia, Brazil, and Pakistan,” the report said.

“Victims of forced labour have been identified in domestic work, the restaurant industry, waste-management, fishing, seasonal agriculture and car-washing services.”

It added: “Vietnamese and Chinese men, who have been prosecuted and sentenced for cannabis cultivation, report indicators of forced labour, such as document-retention, restriction of movement and non-payment of wages.”

The report said the Government indicated that forced labour in the country was growing.

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