There are “chronic” deficiencies in the Government’s efforts to identify, refer and assist victims of human trafficking here leaving Ireland to continue languishing in the second tier of nations tackling the crime and aiding victims.
Every year the US Government assesses the efforts of countries to address human trafficking. For the years leading up to 2017 Ireland’s performance was praised and it was ranked in tier 1.
However, it dropped to tier 2 last year and, according to the latest “Trafficking in Persons Report 2019” released yesterday, remains there based on the its 2018 performance.
The authors criticised the Government’s failure to obtain a trafficking conviction since the legislation was amended in 2013 and said Ireland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
“Authorities failed to initiate any prosecutions in 2018 and had chronic deficiencies in victim identification, referral and assistance. The Government lacked specialised accommodation and adequate services for victims," the report said.
Ruhama worked with 122 victims of sex trafficking in 2018, of which 32 were new cases for that year.
It highlighted a section in the US report which pointed out that state authorities here only identified 27 victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation due to shortcomings in the identification processes and a lack of consistent law enforcement standards when assessing suspected victims.
“We’re concerned about the victim identification process in Ireland, which excludes EEA nationals and asylum seekers who are suspected victims of trafficking,” said Sheila Crowley, service manager at Ruhama.
“This has implications for their abilities to access services, which is exacerbated by the Habitual Residency Condition.”
Amanda Keane, Ruhama’s policy manager, said the official numbers are only the tip of the iceberg: "Victims of human trafficking face a number of challenges in being formally identified as such via the National Referral Mechanism.
For instance, a number of individuals we support will not report their traffickers as they are very tightly controlled and fear reprisals from the trafficker against them or their families.
"Without denouncing their traffickers, victims are not formally identified by the Irish state. This must be addressed.”