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The Government of Ireland fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts during the reporting period; therefore, Ireland remained on Tier 1. The government demonstrated serious and sustained efforts by implementing its second national action plan, significantly increasing its prosecutions, including prosecuting the country’s first case of forced labor under the trafficking law, and increasing funding for victim services. Although the government meets the minimum standards, it has not obtained a trafficking conviction since 2013, and had deficiencies in certain areas of victim identification, suitable housing for victims that prevent re-traumatization, and viable avenues for victim compensation.

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict suspected offenders of both sex and labor trafficking using the trafficking law; improve victim identification and referral mechanisms, and in particular, increase efforts to identify and protect victims of labor trafficking, forced criminality, and asylum-seekers; exempt victims from penalization for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; offer specialized accommodation to victims, particularly for women and traumatized victims; establish an independent national rapporteur to help identify and address gaps in anti-trafficking strategy and efforts; and explore new possibilities for victim compensation, particularly for those involved in sex trafficking.

The government increased law enforcement efforts. The 2008 Human Trafficking Act, amended in 2013, criminalizes all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties up to life imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law broadly defines sexual exploitation to include the sexual abuse of children, and conflates possession or creation of child pornography with human trafficking, making it inconsistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. The Criminal Justices (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 was enacted in February 2017 and criminalizes the purchase of sexual services from a trafficked person, for which it prescribes significant penalties. In such cases, the burden of proof shifts to the accused, who must prove they were unaware the victim was trafficked. The Criminal Justice Bill includes measures against child grooming and includes additional support and protection for victims during the criminal trial process.

Authorities initiated investigations of 90 new trafficking-related cases in 2016, compared to 91 in 2015 and 79 in 2014. Of the 90 cases, 61 involved sexual exploitation, 17 were labor exploitation, four were forced criminality, two were for both sexual and labor exploitation, and six were uncategorized. Police continued pre-trial reviews of at least 13 cases for possible trafficking indicators related to cannabis sector arrests. During the calendar year, the government prosecuted nine individuals for human trafficking crimes; this is a significant increase from previous reporting periods (zero prosecutions in 2015; one prosecution in 2014; two prosecutions in 2013). The government prosecuted three of the individuals under the 2013 amended trafficking act, marking the first forced labor case to proceed to prosecution under that law. There were 29 trafficking cases pending prosecution, 18 of which were new suspected trafficking cases. The government did not report any criminal convictions in 2016 for sex trafficking or forced labor under the anti-trafficking act, and there have been no convictions under this law since 2013.

In late 2015, the government moved its human trafficking investigation and coordination unit into a new national protective services bureau to consolidate specialized expertise on human trafficking. During the reporting period, 69 police officers and 300 new probationer police officers received a three-day training course on trafficking awareness and 68 national police who work as immigration officers received trafficking awareness training. An additional 18 senior investigating officers received trafficking training. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentencing of government officials, diplomats, or peacekeeping officials for alleged complicity in trafficking offenses. Law enforcement cooperated with various foreign governments on trafficking investigations, including extraditions.

The government maintained victim protection efforts, but lacked specialized accommodation for female victims and had deficiencies in its victim identification, referral, and compensation process. Authorities identified 95 suspected trafficking victims in 2016, compared with 78 in 2015 and 46 in 2014. Of the victims identified in 2016, 52 were exploited in sex trafficking, 38 in labor trafficking, one in both sex and labor trafficking, and four in forced criminality in the selling of heroin; 50 were female and 45 were male. The increase in male victims compared to last year was driven by one case involving 23 Romanian male victims. Victims identified in 2016 in Ireland included 39 individuals from Romania, 19 Irish children, 10 from Nigeria, and the rest from Eastern Europe, Africa, South Asia, and South America. Seventy percent of victims were EU nationals.

Experts raised concerns about the government’s ability and efficiency to identify human trafficking victims and its efficiency in doing so. NGOs noted only non-European nationals are officially recognized by the government as suspected human trafficking victims. Observers reported concerns the existing identification system does not capture trafficking victims who are asylum-seekers. Asylum-seekers cannot be identified as victims of trafficking if they have an asylum proceeding pending and in general asylum-seekers are not permitted to work. NGOs reported the victim identification framework is lacking coherence, making it difficult for NGOs to work with the interagency on identifying victims. Due to deficiencies in the victim identification and referral process, the government continued reviewing the current system to identify areas for improvement and planned to examine a new model for victim identification and issue a revised national referral mechanism in 2017.

The current national referral mechanism requires victims be referred by law enforcement before shelter, health, and legal services can be provided. The government and NGOs provided victims with a wide range of services, including health services (physical and psychological), immigration, legal, accommodation, welfare and rent allowance, police assistance, residence permits, repatriation, translation and interpretation assistance, and access to education for dependent children. The government provided €275,000 ($289,779) to an NGO for assistance for sex trafficking victims, compared with €225,000 ($237,092) in 2015. The government also provided €41,428 ($43,654) to another NGO to assist labor trafficking victims, with a substantial increase from €9,564 ($10,078) in 2015. The government also provided €200,000 ($210,748) to five NGOs for vulnerable populations, including those more susceptible to trafficking.

According to the government, in practice, domestic and foreign victims have equal access to all state services. Experts, however, are of the view that victims who are European nationals (non-Irish citizens) were excluded from accessing social assistance support until they are granted an exemption of the Habitual Residence Condition. Although the government was responsive in emergency situations and provided short-term residency arrangements for victims, NGOs stated these accommodations in the direct provision system, a generally criticized system which have been established for asylum-seekers and were mixed-gender housing, had inadequate privacy, were unsuitable and potentially unsafe for traumatized victims, and undermined victim recovery. Experts also noted a lack of specialized services in the centers for female victims who have been traumatized due to psychological, physical, or sexual violence. In 2016, the government granted two trafficking victims a 60-day period of recovery and reflection, to recover and escape the influence of traffickers, and decide whether to assist law enforcement, during which victims were prohibited from working. Experts were concerned a potential victim must be identified by the police in order to avail of the 60-day recovery and reflection period. The government gives suspected foreign trafficking victims temporary relief from deportation, pending an investigation; police can request an extension of a temporary residence permit and extensions are granted by the immigration and naturalization service within 24-48 hours. Seven victims were granted a six-month temporary residence permit; two of these were granted a reflection period before receiving this permit and the remaining five victims received the permit without requiring a prior reflection period. In addition, three suspected trafficking victims were granted a change of status in immigration. The temporary protection can evolve into a permanent residency status in Ireland, and residency benefits are not linked to a successful conviction of the case. Experts, however, have noted gaps in the government’s immigration policies to protect undocumented migrants (including undocumented fisherman) who are vulnerable to trafficking. A labor focused NGO said a government’s immigration scheme launched in February 2016 for crew members of the Irish commercial sea-fishing fleets helped alleviate some of the concerns for undocumented fisherman but criticized the scheme as being specifically time bound and not available on a rolling basis.

Victims could obtain compensation through a court order, civil action, state bodies dealing specifically with work-related rights, and the criminal injuries compensation tribunal. NGOs, however, criticized the lack of viable avenues for victim compensation, particularly those involved in sex trafficking. The trafficking law did not protect victims from prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. NGOs noted the process for victims to seek immunity from punishment from criminal activity as a result of their trafficking is complex and required early legal representation. If authorities prosecuted an individual before he or she is formally identified as a trafficking victim, the criminal record cannot be expunged. The national police revised their protocols and increased regional training on identifying trafficking in cannabis cultivation; the police began including a human trafficking specialist in teams conducting these arrests to ensure trafficking victims were identified as such.

The government increased anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The justice ministry’s anti-trafficking unit coordinated interagency efforts, including the high-level interagency group and five working groups that included NGOs. The working groups, which provide a platform for consultation and civil society, increased their meetings during the reporting period. In October 2016, the government launched its second national action plan, which included analysis of the possible appointment of a national rapporteur and other independent monitoring mechanisms. The government-funded a consortium of NGOs to develop trafficking training materials for staff of the Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) centers for asylum-seekers and conducted a study group to the United Kingdom to improve victim identification practices. The government-funded an NGO to look at effective implementation of legislative measures targeting demand for trafficking victims. The government hosted a conference on trafficking for labor exploitation and the private sector, and provided advice to companies to prevent labor exploitation in their businesses and supply chains. The government and national police continued their active involvement in the Santa Marta Group, including the national police leading the North Atlantic Maritime Project and hosting an international conference on trafficking in the maritime industry.

The government conducted awareness-raising for a variety of targeted groups, which included university students, social workers, diplomats, labor inspectors, migrant workers, and women’s groups. The government also produced a new information booklet on the rights of domestic workers that was available in multiple languages, and is available publicly, as well as through Ireland’s diplomatic network. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade provided €28,000 ($29,505) in funding to support capacity-building anti-trafficking work in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel, peacekeeping, and defense forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. The national police also provided training to international officers at the UN Army School in Ireland.

As reported over the past five years, Ireland is a destination and source country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including forced criminal activity. Irish children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Authorities have reported an increase in suspected victims from Nigeria (some related to upheavals from Boko Haram attacking villages), Romania, Brazil, and Pakistan. The Romani community and undocumented migrant workers are high-risk groups susceptible to human trafficking. Victims of forced labor have been identified in domestic work, the restaurant industry, waste management, fishing, seasonal agriculture, and car washing services. Vietnamese and Chinese men who have been prosecuted and sentenced for cannabis cultivation report indicators of forced labor, such as document retention, restriction of movement, and non-payment of wages. The government reported the problem of forced labor in the country is growing. Women from Eastern Europe who are forced into marriage in Ireland are at risk for sex trafficking and forced labor.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future