Campaigners here said the findings of the Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 highlighted serious gaps in Ireland’s anti-trafficking laws and in how victims are dealt with.
The report, which was published yesterday, said: “Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Nigeria, Cameroon, the Philippines, Poland, Brazil, Pakistan, South Africa, Lithuania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Kuwait, and other countries in Asia, and Eastern Europe.
“There has been an increase in identified Irish children subjected to sex trafficking within the country.”
It said that the Government is complying with minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and that gardaí had increased investigations of alleged trafficking offenders, including foreign diplomats, claiming: “Some domestic workers, primarily women, employed by foreign diplomats on assignment in Ireland, work under poor conditions and are at risk of labour trafficking.”
The US State Department report also highlighted how the Government has “decreased its funding for NGOs providing service to victims, and continued to prosecute a high number of non-trafficking crimes, including child molestation cases, as trafficking cases”.
In total, 44 potential trafficking victims were identified last year, compared with 48 in 2012.
Of those 44 victims, eight were subjected to forced labour and 16 were children, including 11 Irish national children who were trafficked for sexual exploitation.
In its recommendations, the US State Department urged more prosecutions to be brought; a reflection period to be granted to potential victims of trafficking; and the implementation of “the 2008 anti-trafficking law to ensure sex trafficking and forced labour offenders are held accountable through convictions and dissuasive sentences”.
Sarah Benson, the chief executive officer of Ruhama, which supports women affected by prostitution and trafficking, said: “We concur with many of the concerns outlined in this year’s TIP report, particularly those dealing with the identification and protection of victims.
“These concerns include the flawed identification process, the low quality of housing provided for victims, and the cumbersome referral process.”
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said traffickers were exploiting Irish failings and that urgent action was needed.
Chief executive Denise Charlton, said: “Once again the response of the Government to one of the biggest crimes of our time has been found to fall short of what is required.”
Hilkka Becker, senior solicitor with the Immigrant Council, said: “We know from the work of the International Labour Organisation and the EU that trafficking for sexual exploitation is one of the most lucrative crimes for gangs — and Ireland must not be complacent in responding to it.”
The Immigrant Council said that an Anti-Trafficking Czar should be appointed and new laws to target those buying sex introduced.
Read the report here.