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, 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. Victims of forced labor in domestic service and restaurant work are subjected to excessively long hours by employers who withhold personal documents. Some domestic workers, primarily women, 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. During the reporting period, it provided additional support services to victims of trafficking and amended its legislation to increase protections for such victims. Law enforcement officials increased investigations of alleged trafficking offenders, including foreign diplomats, sustained victim identification efforts, and published a self-critical study of the implementation of its anti-trafficking action plan. The government, however, 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. Potential victims of forced labor in cannabis production were prosecuted and imprisoned for crimes that may have resulted from the victims being trafficked.
Recommendations for Ireland:
Implement the 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; increase efforts to prevent victimization in forced labor and protect potential victims; enhance training of labor inspectors and other officials on identification of victims of forced labor; implement a government-wide victim services database and case management system to improve the tracking of 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; improve training of and communication with NGOs to improve the referral of potential victims to law enforcement; involve NGOs and other civil society members in the development of anti-trafficking efforts; 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 potential victims to services; consider amending the law to authorize asylum seekers who are also identified trafficking victims to obtain work authorization; increase funding for victim services; enhance training for social workers responsible for trafficked children, including training on 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. 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. The law broadly defines sexual exploitation, including the sexual abuse of children, and conflates possession or creation of child pornography with trafficking in persons, making law enforcement statistics unreliable. During the reporting period, the 2008 Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act was amended to come into compliance with certain provisions of EU Directive 2011/36/EU. Authorities initiated 56 new trafficking investigations in 2013, an increase from 37 in 2012, and prosecuted and convicted at least two defendants for human trafficking under Section 3 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentencing of government officials for alleged complicity in trafficking-related offenses during the reporting period. In 2013, the government reported authorities initiated two investigations of alleged domestic servitude in diplomatic households. The government trained national police on human trafficking awareness, victim identification, and victim-centered assistance in coordination with NGOs and international organizations. The government also trained social workers, juvenile liaison officers, and vehicular traffic officers in the identification of, and the provision of appropriate assistance to, victims of human trafficking. In 2013, law enforcement cooperated with Poland, Romania, the Netherlands, and the Philippines to investigate trafficking-related offenses.
The government maintained protection efforts for trafficking victims, but failed to take into account more subtle forms of coercion compelling victims to remain in a situation of forced labor, resulting in low numbers of identified labor trafficking victims. Forty-four potential trafficking victims were identified in 2013, compared with 48 in 2012. Of these 44 victims, eight were subjected to forced labor and 16 were children, including 11 Irish national children who were trafficked for sexual exploitation. All foreign adult victims were offered accommodation in the government-operated asylum reception center; child victims were supported through child protection services. NGOs reported lacking formal and defined roles in the victim identification process. 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. Under immigration arrangements for trafficking in persons, the government granted two victims a six-month temporary residence permission; seven victims were issued long-term permission to remain in the country for cooperating with law enforcement. Residency benefits were not linked to the successful outcome of a human trafficking prosecution. 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. Victims are prohibited from working during the reflection period. During the reporting period, two victims were granted reflection periods. Victim witnesses are permitted to leave the country pending the trial of their alleged abusers. In 2013, the government made available use of out-of-court video recordings for child victim-witness testimony. The government allocated the equivalent of approximately $1 million in combined funding for government-provided programs and services and increased care facilities and victim support. It provided the equivalent of approximately $240,000 to NGOs for victim protection and assistance, a decrease from previous years.
The government offered free legal aid to all potential trafficking victims, but only a small number of eligible potential victims availed themselves of such services; only eight persons accepted such legal aid and the remaining declined the service. Reportedly, the legal support provided to victims was inadequate; as early legal representation is not available, the legal advice did not suffice to permit victims to navigate the immigration system, and victims lacked representation throughout the criminal investigation and prosecution process. Under the national referral mechanism, potential victims must be referred to law enforcement before shelter, health, and legal services can be provided. Long-term shelter is provided to adult foreign trafficking victims through asylum reception centers. The reception centers worked with the Irish refugee council and NGOs on the needs of potential victims of human trafficking. The anti-trafficking team of the health service executive completed an individual and comprehensive care plan for each potential victim of human trafficking, covering medical care, psychological care, accommodation, material requirements, legal assistance, and education and training. Victims were free to leave the reception centers without a chaperone. The reception centers provide access to general health services, psychological care, and vocational training. Experts reported problems in the reception centers’ housing for potential and suspected victims of trafficking, including a lack of privacy. Although victims of trafficking are permitted to seek legal employment while in temporary residency status, there is a statutory prohibition preventing asylum seekers from working. In 2013, a total of eight out of the 44 persons identified as potential victims of human trafficking in 2013 had previously asserted a claim for asylum in Ireland. NGOs reported asylum-seeking victims of trafficking who were in the asylum centers had less access to privacy, safe accommodations, education, training, work, and travel than other victims of trafficking.
The government’s failure to effectively track referrals prevented social workers from verifying whether the full range of services and supports for which victims were eligible were actually provided. NGOs reported difficulty dealing with law enforcement regarding victim status. In a number of cases referred to law enforcement, NGOs were told there was insufficient evidence to make a determination of trafficking and noted a lack of transparency regarding the process. NGOs reported a productive working relationship with the anti-trafficking unit, but requested a more defined and formalized role in the victim identification process. In 2013, the government maintained its protocol between the national police and child protection services on unaccompanied migrant children to reduce the number of children who go missing from care, and reported a decline in missing children.
The Government of Ireland improved anti-trafficking prevention efforts. It published a handbook for practitioners and victims of trafficking explaining their rights and support services available, and gave presentations to social science and law students to inform them of the issues surrounding human trafficking and to encourage research on the topic. The government provided information to secondary school students, designed to raise awareness of modern slavery and educate students on the issue of human trafficking. The government, in coordination with NGOs, launched an awareness-raising project focused on zero tolerance of human trafficking as a form of violence against women and girls, including training to frontline service providers. The government and NGOs trained asylum center staff on victims support; immigration officials on victim identification, and Irish diplomats on general awareness. A one-day forum was held with counterparts from the Northern Ireland in which representatives from state agencies, law enforcement, non-governmental, and international organizations examined victim identification issues and demand reduction. The government continued an online awareness campaign for citizens to report potential cases of trafficking. In an effort to enhance transparency, the Irish government published a review of its 2006-2012 national action plan. The second national action plan is being finalized. The government did not have an independent national rapporteur to monitor its efforts to fight trafficking. The government demonstrated efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts and forced labor. The government provided anti-trafficking training to Irish defense forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.