Frontline agencies representing victims of sex trafficking have called for an independent rapporteur to assess how effectively victims are being supported.
It comes at a time when sex exploitation is behind seven in 10 cases of human trafficking to Ireland.
The rapporteur would be modelled on the lines of the National Rapporteur for Child Protection and have the power to request information, the competence to assess trends, and would be directly accountable to parliament.
The Department of Justice currently acts as national rapporteur or equivalent mechanism (NREM).
The call for a rapporteur is contained in a submission to the European Commission by migrant rights organisation Doras Luimni, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and Ruhama, a support group for women affected by sexual exploitation.
The organisations are asking that the measures be included in a new national action plan on human trafficking promised 13 months ago, to replace the plan that expired in 2012.
They are critical of Department of Justice NREM delays in publishing data on trends in human trafficking and say there “is scant information” on traffickers.
“The NREM reports do not include sufficient analysis of current and emerging trends, modus operandi of traffickers, organised crime groups, involvement of legal persons, estimates of profit and money flows, or information on higher risk sectors,” the document states.
Denise Charlton of the Immigrant Council said the “long-awaited” new action plan represents “an opportunity to ensure we have robust laws and regulations which protect and support victims while at the same time targeting those whose actions fuel these crimes”.
“We encourage the Government to act swiftly,” she added.
Patricia Stapleton from Doras Luimni said appropriate accommodation options, improved victim identification procedures, and immunity from prosecution were “crucial if victims are to recover and move on with their lives”.
Ruhama chief executive Sarah Benson said the action plan needs to improve protection for victims of trafficking. “The current system of protection is conditional on the victim’s co-operation with the criminal investigation and excludes those who are already within the asylum process. The national action plan needs to amend this system.”
The three groups also criticised the lack of transparency in operations or outcomes of human trafficking detections and prosecutions, claiming that victims of trafficking “are rarely updated on their cases”.
They also want an end to the practice of excluding victims in the asylum process from the possibility of being identified, acknowledged, and supported as victims of the crime of trafficking.
Figures for 2009-13 show 202 cases of human trafficking and 64 cases of being trafficked for forced labour. The overwhelming majority were females (230) compared to 63 males. Eighty-eight of the cases related to children.
A department spokesperson last night said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will soon publish a national action plan. “This new national action plan will be informed by the findings of international evaluations of Ireland’s efforts in this regard and will be the subject of consultation with relevant civil society organisations active in this field,” the spokesperson said.
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