The greatest number of people believed to have been trafficked into Ireland for the sex trade or as unpaid workers originate from West Africa, figures show.
Alan Shatter, the justice minister, said 31% of the suspected victims of human trafficking this year came from the region.
In a written Dáil response to Ciara Conway (Lab), he said: “I have been informed by An Garda Síochána that persons, mostly from Africa, travelled to Ireland either via hub European airports or, alternatively, in a small number of cases, via the UK entering Ireland from Northern Ireland. There are no direct flights from Africa to Ireland.”
The next highest area of human trafficking into Ireland is the EU at 19%.
Eastern Asia accounts for 16% of victims.
Mr Shatter confirmed that the number of human trafficking convictions this year amounted to three, with six in 2012 and four in 2011.
The convictions arose from offences under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and in respect of other human trafficking offences under other acts, eg, Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.
Mr Shatter said there are 31 investigations into human trafficking this year, compared to 37 for 2012, 53 in 2011, and 69 in 2010.
“An Garda Síochána, in its Policing Plan for 2013, has highlighted the prevention and detection of human trafficking as one of eight stated priorities.
“The anti-human trafficking unit in my department and An Garda Síochána are continually vigilant for any emerging trends relating to human trafficking and they maintain regular dialogue on this matter with relevant state agencies, NGOs, and international organisations working in this area.”
The organisation established in response to the problem, Blue Blindfold, states that “in terms of the type of human trafficking encountered in Ireland, the largest group were alleged victims of sexual exploitation followed by victims of labour exploitation”.
The vast majority of alleged victims were female. The majority of persons were adults.
“Nonetheless, minors represented a significant minority, accounting for almost one quarter of alleged victims reported in Ireland. In relation to the origin of alleged victims those from Western Africa, principally Nigeria, constituted the largest regional group.
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