Ireland is a destination, source, and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Nigeria, Cameroon, the Philippines, Poland, Albania, Bulgaria, Brazil, Romania, Pakistan, and other countries in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. There has been an increase in identified Irish children subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Victims of forced labor in domestic service and restaurant work are subjected to excessively long hours from employers who withhold personal documents. Some domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats on assignment in Ireland work under poor conditions and are at risk of labor trafficking.
The Government of Ireland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to provide a wide range of protective services to victims, including legal aid. Although government funding for NGOs providing services to victims decreased during 2012, total government funding for anti-trafficking activities increased during the year. Law enforcement took steps to improve coordination with NGOs and the provision of services and protection to potential victims of sex trafficking. However, in some cases authorities failed to make prompt determinations of potential victims’ eligibility for services. Victims could face challenges accessing services due to confusion between NGOs and officials on procedures in the national referral process, particularly outside of Dublin.
Recommendations for Ireland: Vigorously implement Ireland’s 2008 anti-trafficking law to ensure sex trafficking and forced labor offenders are held accountable through convictions and dissuasive sentences; ensure trafficking investigations efficiently move forward to prosecution; implement a government-wide victim services database and case management system to improve the tracking of efficient delivery of services across multiple government agencies; continue to enhance and formalize the role of NGOs in identifying potential victims in cooperation with law enforcement and through proactive screenings in asylum and immigration settings; improve training and communication on the national referral process for NGOs to improve referral of potential victims to law enforcement and ensure authorities make prompt determinations of potential victims’ eligibility for services, irrespective of criminal proceedings; ensure that all trafficking victims are, in practice, able to access available legal services; consider policy or legal changes to ensure all potential trafficking victims are afforded a reflection period, regardless of immigration status, to recover before making an informed decision about whether to assist law enforcement; ensure labor inspectors refer identified forced labor cases for criminal investigation and refer potential victims to services; consider amending the law to authorize asylum seekers who are also identified trafficking victims to obtain work authorization; consider increasing funding for victim services; enhance training for social workers responsible for trafficked children, including meeting the needs of unaccompanied migrant or asylum seeking children who are victims of trafficking; and consider establishing a national rapporteur to enhance anti-trafficking efforts and to better assess needed improvements in victim identification.
The Government of Ireland sustained efforts to prosecute trafficking offenders; however, the number of new trafficking investigations it undertook during the year declined. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through its 2008 Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, which prescribes penalties up to life imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Authorities initiated 32 new trafficking investigations in 2012, compared with 53 new investigations in 2011, and continued 97 investigations begun in prior years. Law enforcement referred 22 trafficking suspects, including two labor trafficking suspects, to the Director of Public Prosecution in 2012, none of whom went to trial during the reporting period. In 2011, nine defendants were prosecuted for human trafficking offenses. The government reported four convictions under Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 in this reporting period, as compared to one conviction in the previous reporting period. Conviction statistics in Ireland conflate possession or creation of child pornography and trafficking in persons, owing to the structure of the relevant Irish anti-trafficking law. One trafficker was sentenced under trafficking-related statutes to three years’ imprisonment and one was sentenced under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 to 12 years’ imprisonment. A report by the OSCE Special Representative for Combating Trafficking noted the number of prosecutions under the anti-trafficking law was low, especially those relating to labor trafficking, in relation to the number of investigations. The government did not report any new investigations or prosecutions of public officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period, though it continued its investigation of a former Irish police officer for trafficking-related complicity. In 2012, authorities initiated an investigation of an Ireland-based foreign diplomat for alleged trafficking of three potential victims in domestic servitude. The government continued to train national police on human trafficking awareness in coordination with NGOs and international organizations. The government also funded the development of “train-the-trainer” courses for officials on human trafficking.
The government maintained adequate protection efforts for trafficking victims, though potential victims faced challenges in accessing available services. Some NGOs noted a lack of proactive identification efforts among law enforcement personnel and an over-reliance on immigration authorities to identify potential trafficking victims may have resulted in a low number of victims accessing assistance. Police also did not take into account more subtle forms of coercion that compel victims to remain in a situation of forced labor, resulting in low numbers of identified labor trafficking victims. The government provided identified non-EU national trafficking victims with a 60-day reflection period—time in which the victim may recover before deciding whether to assist law enforcement. NGOs consistently raised the issue that some potential victims referred to law enforcement never received a determination of whether the government considered them to be “potential victims” eligible for the reflection period and services. The absence of an adequate database hindered the government’s ability to track the prompt provision of services to victims across the many government support agencies. Law enforcement identified 48 potential trafficking victims in 2012, compared with 57 in 2011. Of these 48 victims, six were subjected to forced labor, 17 were male, and 23 were children, including 19 Irish national children who were found in commercial sex. The government encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of traffickers through the provision of residency permits, shelter, individual care plans, and legal aid; however, many victims reportedly were unwilling to come forward to law enforcement, possibly due to a perceived risk or lack of knowledge of available services. All victims identified by law enforcement during the reporting period assisted authorities in investigations. NGOs criticized a cumbersome referral process, citing confusion over who the appropriate points of contact were to investigate trafficking in areas outside of Dublin. In 2012, the government provided the equivalent of approximately $1.1 million in combined funding for government-provided programs and services, inclusive of funding to NGOs for their direct services.
The government made available free legal aid to all potential trafficking victims. Only a very small number of eligible potential victims availed themselves of such services; only nine received legal services in 2012. Under the national referral mechanism, potential victims must be referred to law enforcement before shelter, health, and legal services will be provided. NGOs reported that, in some cases, authorities took up to a year from the time an NGO referred a potential victim to law enforcement to make an eligibility determination, severely obstructing identification and access to services. NGOs reported not knowing how to proceed in assisting victims without an update on the outcome of law enforcement’s determination of whether the person is an eligible “potential victim.” NGOs reported concerns over the low quality of housing for potential victims and the practice of moving victims to different hostels. Long-term shelter is provided to foreign trafficking victims through asylum reception centers. Law enforcement referred 18 trafficking victims to shelter in the asylum centers and the government provided them with care plans. A report by the OSCE Special Representative noted increased coordination with NGOs was needed to enhance and individualize services to trafficking victims in asylum centers. During the year, two victims were issued new six-month temporary residency permits and 18 victims received renewed temporary residency, of whom five received long-term residency in Ireland. Two victims were in the asylum process. Although victims of trafficking seek legal employment while in temporary residency status, there is a statutory prohibition preventing asylum seekers from working. The government’s failure effectively to track referrals of and case management services for victims prevented social workers from verifying whether the full range of services and supports for which victims were eligible were actually provided.
A report by the OSCE Special Representative noted recent efforts by the government to strengthen the child protection system and encouraged authorities to take further action to ensure durable and safe solutions for children using a child-sensitive and child rights-based approach to all aspects of anti-trafficking policy. In 2012, the government expanded nationally a formal protocol between national police and child protection services on unaccompanied migrant children to reduce the number of children who go missing from care. An NGO report published during the reporting period noted positively the government’s transition to placing most unaccompanied migrant children, including trafficked children in foster care, with a small number of older children placed in residential centers, an improvement over past use of hostels. The report called for consistent support from designated local social workers to respond to the complexity of issues and needs of trafficked children placed in private contracted foster care outside of Dublin.
There were no reports of trafficking victims punished for acts committed as a direct result of their being trafficked. NGOs praised the government’s victim-centered approach during a joint operation with law enforcement counterparts in Northern Ireland against organized prostitution, raiding 140 sites; police treated women as potential victims and witnesses to crimes, not as criminals. The government provided guidelines to frontline staff in the Department of Social Protection on how to identify and report trafficking concerns.
The government sustained its anti-trafficking prevention efforts. In coordination with the Belfast Department of Justice, the government ran a photography and video competition for university students as a means of raising awareness on human trafficking. Irish secondary schools included in their curriculum a course on how students can combat human trafficking in Ireland. The government held a joint training session with border control and law enforcement officials in Great Britain and Northern Ireland focused on raising awareness of trafficking indicators. As part of the Government of Ireland’s 2012 Chairmanship in the Office of the OSCE, the government organized an international seminar on human trafficking in Vienna. The government conducted a review of the 2009 to 2012 national action plan against trafficking and planned to publish the report in 2013. The government conducted a year-long study and period of public comment considering changes to the 1993 prostitution law and whether to criminalize purchasers of commercial sex acts. The government did not demonstrate additional efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Irish defense forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.