This follows concerns expressed by organisations supporting victims of sexual exploitation that there needed to be greater public awareness that the purchase of sex is now a crime.
Sarah Benson from Ruhama welcomed the minister’s move but added: “It is only one of a number of measures needed to combat trafficking. They include training for gardaí, the rollout of protection services bureaux, and NGO involvement.”
Ms Benson said it was too early to say whether the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services in March last year has had any notable effect on the levels of human trafficking here.
The newly designed site provides a user-friendly overview of how the crime manifests in Ireland, how members of the public can spot and report the signs of trafficking, and how the State supports these victims.
Mr Flanagan said: “A key element in the fight against human trafficking is an informed society, who are aware that exploitation, tantamount to slavery, continues to happen today in Ireland. Our revamped ‘Blue Blindfold’ website seeks to further educate the public on what human trafficking is and how it occurs in Ireland.
“Human trafficking is driven by supply and demand. Public demand for cheap labour and sexual services creates the space in which criminal gangs thrive. Such gangs use deception to force vulnerable people into prostitution and, increasingly, into everyday employment sectors such as pop-up car washes, nail salons, domestic households and the agri-food sector.
“It is in these areas that the public may unwittingly encounter a victim of human trafficking.”