IRELAND: Tier 2

The Government of Ireland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Ireland remained on Tier 2. These efforts included beginning coordination with stakeholders to develop a new national identification and referral mechanism and identifying a greater number of victims. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government has not obtained a trafficking conviction since the law was amended in 2013. Authorities failed to initiate any prosecutions in 2018 and had chronic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance. The government lacked specialized accommodation and adequate services for victims.

PRIORITIZED RECOMMENDATIONS

Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict suspected offenders of both sex and labor trafficking using the trafficking law. • Train law enforcement and prosecutors on developing cases with evidence to corroborate victim testimony and train law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors on a victim-centered approach. • Improve victim identification and referral and issue a revised referral mechanism in coordination with NGOs, offering formal identification, a recovery and reflection period, and services to all victims without referral from police. • Increase efforts to identify and protect all victims, especially of labor trafficking and forced criminality, and stop joint inspections between labor inspectors and immigration authorities, which pose a barrier to identification of victims. • Adopt a legal provision to exempt victims from inappropriate penalization for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. • Offer specialized accommodation to victims. • Amend the atypical working scheme for sea fishers to reduce their risk of labor trafficking. • Increase legal assistance for trafficking victims, including for assisting investigations and court proceedings that can be accessed at the earliest opportunity and prior to engaging with police. • Establish a national hotline to report trafficking crimes and provide victim assistance and referral. • Increase access for victims to compensation, particularly for those involved in sex trafficking. • Establish an independent national rapporteur to help identify and address gaps in anti-trafficking strategy and efforts.

PROSECUTION

The government maintained insufficient law enforcement efforts. The 2008 Human Trafficking Act, amended in 2013, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties up to life imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law broadly defined sexual exploitation to include the sexual abuse of children. The Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 criminalized the purchase of sexual services and prescribed more severe penalties for the purchase of sex from a person subjected to trafficking. In such cases, the burden of proof shifted to the accused, who had to prove they were unaware the victim was subjected to trafficking. The Criminal Justice Bill included measures against child grooming and included additional support and protection for victims during the criminal trial process.

The national police trafficking unit initiated investigations. The government changed its methodology for reporting investigations, rendering the data incomparable to data from previous years (115 in 2017 and 90 in 2016). The government reported 64 investigations in 2018, equal to the number of identified victims; the government initiated each investigation in response to a separate allegation of human trafficking. Many of the cases reported in previous years did not involve trafficking via force, fraud, and coercion for the purpose of exploitation. The government did not initiate any prosecutions (three in 2017, nine in 2016). The government did not convict any traffickers under the anti-trafficking act; there were no convictions under this law since it was amended in 2013. GRETA expressed concern about the inadequate criminal justice response and noted the failure to convict traffickers and the absence of effective sentences that can contribute to impunity and undermine efforts to support victims to testify. The office of the director of public prosecutions had six personnel assigned to the team responsible for prosecuting trafficking and other crimes; they received quarterly briefings on trafficking-related legal updates, but did not receive trafficking training in the reporting period.

During the reporting period, 127 police officers participated in a three-day training course on trafficking (140 in 2017); 650 new probationary police officers received basic trafficking awareness training (240 in 2017); and 47 immigration officers stationed at an airport received trafficking awareness training (140 in 2017). The national police did not train front-line social protection officers (230 in 2017) or immigration officers at ports (19 in 2017). An additional 77 senior investigating officers (40 in 2017) and 81 detective sergeants received trafficking training (40 in 2017). Eight workplace relations commission inspectors received training on the identification of trafficking indicators (10 in 2017). Inspectors did not refer any suspected cases to the national police (four in 2017). The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking. Law enforcement cooperated with various foreign governments on trafficking investigations and executed two European arrest warrants (two in 2017). The high court ordered the extradition of one suspect (one in 2017).

PROTECTION

The government maintained insufficient victim protection efforts. Authorities identified 64 suspected trafficking victims, including five children, compared with 57 in 2017 and 41 in 2016; the government changed its methodology for reporting identified victims and removed non-trafficking victims from its data. Of the victims identified in 2018, 27 were exploited in sex trafficking, 35 in labor trafficking, and two in forced criminality; 33 were female and 31 were male. Victims identified in 2018 in Ireland included 14 from Romania, 10 from Egypt, nine from Nigeria, one from Ireland, and the rest from Europe, Africa, South Asia, the Near East, and South America. Thirty percent of victims were EU nationals. NGOs reported the number of victims in the fishing industry grew from 12 victims in 2017 to 23 in 2018, 16 of which the government identified as trafficking victims in 2018.

Experts raised concerns about the government’s inability to identify trafficking victims due to shortcomings in its identification mechanism. Formal procedures for victim identification applied only to victims lacking legal residency in Ireland, namely foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who were not asylum-seekers. The formal identification scheme excluded EEA nationals, including Irish nationals, and asylum-seekers with pending applications. As a result, the government did not formally identify such persons as suspected victims of trafficking, with implications for their access to victim services. Experts reported this practice deprived Irish and EEA nationals access to specialized assistance. According to the government, in practice, domestic and foreign victims had equal access to all state services. Experts, however, asserted EEA-national victims were excluded from accessing social welfare and other state support until they satisfied or were granted an exemption from the Habitual Residence Condition. The government reported receiving no complaints of refusals or evidence of cases where difficulties in satisfying the Condition arose for trafficking victims.

The government maintained it assessed suspected victims on a “reasonable grounds” basis to allow them access to support and services, but NGOs and lawyers asserted the national police lacked consistent standards when assessing victims. NGOs and other front-line responders did not have a formal role in the identification process; the police were the only entity with the authority to formally identify victims, which GRETA reported in 2017 created a potential conflict of priorities between law enforcement efforts and victim assistance. A formal victim statement to police and law enforcement referral were required for potential victims to access the national referral mechanism; victims unwilling to go to the police could access emergency accommodation, counseling, medical care, and legal services from two NGOs that received government funding but not through the referral mechanism. The government pledged in the 2016 national action plan to review the existing mechanism, and initially reported a new mechanism would be instituted in 2017. The justice department’s anti-trafficking unit worked with various government entities to agree on a revised identification and referral mechanism, but the government still did not issue a new mechanism as planned for several years. Experts welcomed ongoing government plans to develop a new national identification and referral mechanism, but expressed concern with the slow pace of and lack of clarity surrounding the development of the mechanism and the impact gaps may have on the needs of potential victims. Of the 64 potential victims authorities identified, they referred all to services, although it was unclear how many were eligible to receive services due to Habitual Residency Condition restrictions.

Through the national referral mechanism administered at direct provision centers, the government provided victims with health services, immigration permission, accommodation, welfare and rent allowance, police assistance, residence permits, repatriation, translation and interpretation assistance, and access to education for dependent children. There was no legally mandated psychological assistance for victims and the counseling services provided by NGOs was insufficient. NGOs reported a lack of specialized services to address the physical and mental health needs of victims. The government’s legal aid board provided information to potential victims referred by police, but not legal assistance or support for investigations or trials. One government-funded NGO provided legal representation for victims. GRETA urged the government to ensure victims had early access to legal practitioners with specialized knowledge of trafficking who could represent them. The government funded an international organization to repatriate 15 victims (13 in 2017), 13 of which the government formally identified.

The government provided €325,000 ($372,710) to an NGO for assistance for sex trafficking victims, compared with €310,000 ($355,500) in 2017. The government also provided €50,000 ($57,340) to another NGO to assist labor trafficking victims, the same amount as in 2017. There were no dedicated shelters for victims of trafficking. Although the government provided accommodation arrangements for potential victims, NGOs stated the mixed-gender housing in the direct provision system, a system originally established to provide services for asylum-seekers, had inadequate privacy, was unsuitable and potentially unsafe for traumatized victims, could expose them to greater exploitation, and undermined victim recovery. Experts also noted a lack of specialized services in the centers for all victims, but especially for female victims who had been traumatized due to psychological, physical, or sexual violence. There were reports authorities removed victims from direct provision centers without any alternative accommodation in place or available. Suspected victims who were in the asylum process remained in direct provision accommodation while a determination was being made in relation to their claim for international protection, which could continue for years. The government reported ongoing conversations to develop alternative government-funded accommodation, which experts welcomed, but officials offered no concrete proposals.

The government gave suspected foreign trafficking victims temporary relief from deportation, depending on cooperation with an ongoing investigation. The government issued some form of immigration permission to 47 victims during 2018 (40 in 2017). The permissions were granted through a 60-day recovery and reflection period, a six-month temporary residence permission, or a two-year residence permission, which allowed the holder to engage in legal employment. The government precluded victims who sought asylum from obtaining six-month renewable residence permits, which limited their access to certain benefits, such as work permits. NGOs reported the six-month periods acted as a barrier to work. The temporary protection could evolve into permanent residency, and residency benefits were not linked to a conviction. Victims could obtain compensation through a court order, civil action, state bodies dealing specifically with work-related rights, and the criminal injuries compensation tribunal. The Workplace Relations Commission awarded lost wages to six sea fisher victims of trafficking during the reporting period. NGOs criticized the lack of viable avenues for victim compensation, particularly those involved in sex trafficking since they would not have verifiable expenses or employment losses. NGOs reported only foreign embassies provided interpretation services to non-EEA national victims of labor exploitation in the fishing industry. An NGO provided sea fishers it assessed as victims of labor trafficking with material support and assistance, as well as legal advice and representation, without public funding.

GRETA urged the adoption of a specific legal provision on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking in both its 2013 and 2017 reports, and, in 2015, the Irish high court found a need for protocols or legislation that dictate what happens when a victim was suspected of criminal activity; however, the trafficking law did not protect victims from prosecution for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. NGOs noted the process for victims to seek immunity from punishment for criminal activity as a result of their trafficking was complex and required early legal representation. If authorities prosecuted an individual before he or she was formally identified as a trafficking victim, the criminal record could not be expunged. A police officer with specialized trafficking training accompanied teams conducting arrests related to cannabis cultivation crimes to identify trafficking indicators and advise victims. Police conducted 70 reviews of cannabis production cases for possible trafficking indicators and did not identify any victims or overturn any prosecutions as a result of these reviews. Law enforcement failed to identify indicators of trafficking and punished undocumented potential victims for immigration-related offenses. The government reported the national police collaborated with the office of the director of public prosecutions to ensure victims were not prosecuted. Joint inspections between labor inspectors and immigration enforcement authorities intimidated undocumented potential victims and posed a barrier to the identification of victims.

PREVENTION

The government maintained prevention efforts. The justice ministry’s anti-trafficking unit coordinated interagency efforts, including the high-level interagency group, which met once, and five working groups that included NGOs; only the awareness raising working group met during the reporting year. The government published in August 2018 a report on its efforts from 2017. The police provided partial funding for a research project on trafficking in Ireland, and ran an advertisement in a migrant-focused newspaper to raise awareness of trafficking. The workplace relations commission provided information on employment rights to approximately 57,300 callers (52,000 in 2017), made 58 presentations (54 in 2017) on employment rights, and published a leaflet on the rights of domestic workers in eight languages on its website. The workplace relations commission could not regulate agencies who recruited domestic workers under the designation of “au pairs,” who were allowed to work up to 20 hours per week without the need for a work permit; NGOs reported employers regularly paid au pairs less than minimum wage and forced them to violate the 20 hours of work per week maximum, creating vulnerability to labor trafficking. The government also provided €159,400 ($182,800) for research and awareness raising projects in relation to the criminalization of the purchase of sex, compared to €76,400 ($87,610) in 2017 and €200,000 ($229,360) in 2016. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor. The government did not fund the operation of a dedicated trafficking national hotline, but the national police trafficking unit promoted a general crime hotline for anonymously notifying police about various crime incidents; police officers, six of whom received anti-trafficking training, staffed the hotline, which was available for 12 hours daily. The national police had a dedicated email address for reports of trafficking; the police took action stemming from 30 emails, compared with 31 in 2017.

Four UN Special Rapporteurs—on contemporary forms of slavery, trafficking in persons, racial discrimination, and human rights of migrants—sent a letter to the Irish government warning the government that its atypical working scheme for sea fishers was not in line with international human rights law and standards related to trafficking in persons and the human rights of migrants, making undocumented workers particularly vulnerable to trafficking and serious abuse on Irish fishing vessels. An NGO sought and was denied an immediate injunction requesting the government stop granting or reviewing further permissions under the scheme. The government took no concrete action during the reporting period to address a 2017 parliamentary committee report recommending changes to the scheme, including a moratorium on issuing permits to out-of-country non-EEA foreign nationals until the permit could be decoupled from a single employer and until the position of all in-country non-EEA nationals could be regularized. The committee also recommended a single department be given overall responsibility for the fishing industry. Mediation between the government and the NGO to address the atypical working scheme was ongoing at the end of the reporting period.

TRAFFICKING PROFILE

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Ireland and traffickers exploit victims from Ireland abroad. Traffickers subject Irish children to sex trafficking within the country. Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America. Authorities and media have reported an increase in suspected victims from Nigeria, Romania, Indonesia, Brazil, and Pakistan. 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 convicted for cannabis cultivation reported indicators of forced labor, such as document retention, restriction of movement, and non-payment of wages. Undocumented workers in the fishing industry and domestic workers, particularly au pairs, are particularly vulnerable to trafficking. The government has 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.

2019 Trafficking in Persons Report: Ireland
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