State: Failure to convict traffickers is a concern

The Government has admitted that the failure to prosecute and convict criminals involved in human trafficking was a “pressing concern”.

Groups working with trafficking victims said the lack of convictions meant there was “no real disincentive” for gangs to engage in the trade.

Both Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland said trafficking victims have been subjected to further danger — such as grooming and prostitution — in the privately run hostels where they have to live.

They claim that traffickers even use the asylum system as part of their trafficking operation.

Another group, the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, said some of those trafficked for forced labour end up being prosecuted and sentenced for drug offences, even though they were virtual slaves in the likes of cannabis factories where they worked.

In a 157-page review of the National Action Plan To Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings, the Department of Justice said increasing the number of prosecutions and convictions was “a matter of pressing concern”.

The department said this was an issue in many countries and stemmed from several factors: trafficking was a clandestine activity; victims were often reluctant to contact the authorities and investigations were extremely complex.

Despite these problems, it said there had been a “marked improvement” in Garda investigations in recent years. It said there were 66 cases of suspected human trafficking in 2009, 69 of which were in 2010 and 53 in 2011.

The department said that of these:

- Six people were prosecuted for trafficking-related offences in 2009, including three in their home country of Romania, where they received sentences of five to seven years;

- Five people were prosecuted in 2010 and two were convicted;

- Four people were convicted in 2011.

The report noted the progress that had been made with the establishment of the Garda Human Trafficking Unit.

The review rejected claims of grooming and prostitution in Reception & Integration Agency (RIA) hostels, stating these allegations had not been “substantiated with verifiable supporting information”.

The review also described as “unfounded” claims by voluntary groups that residents of these hostels were afraid to complain about services for fear of reprisals.

The report said that following submissions new legislation would specifically include forced labour in the definition of human trafficking.

Consideration was being given regarding the establishment of a national rapporteur as obliged under European law.

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