No criminal convictions in Ireland for sex trafficking since 2013

Report critical of Government with sex trafficking in Ireland on the rise

No criminal convictions in Ireland for sex trafficking since 2013

Image: RollingNews.ie

A new report has revealed that Ireland has not prosecuted a people-trafficker since 2013.

The 2016 Trafficking in Persons report was released by the US Department of State.

It is the US government’s main diplomatic tool used to engage with foreign governments on human trafficking. 

It uses the report to advance anti-trafficking reforms and to combat trafficking, target resources on prevention, protection and prosecution programs. The report analyses each country’s efforts towards the issue and highlights inefficiencies in their attempts to combat the problem.

Although Ireland received a “Tier 1” rating for our efforts, some of the figures make for uncomfortable reading, notably that Ireland hasn’t prosecuted a people-trafficker since 2013, under the 2008 anti-trafficking law.  

The report notes that whilst the Government of Ireland fully meets the minimum standard for the elimination of trafficking, “law enforcement’s continued failure to identify suspected victims of forced criminal activity and their subsequent prosecution and imprisonment within the Irish court system remained a serious concern.”

Victims of trafficking in Ireland primarily came from Romania and Nigeria and there were 91 new trafficking cases in 2015, up from 97 in 2014.

However, “four of the investigations were closed and the government will not prosecute them due to various factors, including lack of evidence, lack of cooperation from witnesses, and unidentified suspects.”

Furthermore, it says “the Government did not report any criminal convictions for sex trafficking or forced labour under the anti-trafficking act in 2015. The Government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentencing of Government officials for alleged complicity in trafficking offences.”

In more positive moves, the Government did establish a national protective services bureau, which includes the human trafficking investigation and coordination unit within the gardaí. All 56 inspectors of the Workplace Relations Commission and 106 immigration officials received training on trafficking indicators.

Victim’s Rights and Supports

The government provided identified, undocumented migrant trafficking victims a 60-day reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement, during which victims were prohibited from working, as well as six months of temporary residency, during which victims were required to cooperate with law enforcement.

Free legal aid is granted to all identified trafficking victims but not all eligible victims chose to avail of this. Only 24 people in 2015 and 16 people in 2014 received any legal assistance.  

While the law did not protect victims from prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. 

The government provided €225,000 to an NGO for assistance for sex trafficking victims, compared with €172,000 in 2014, and €9,560 to an NGO to assist labour trafficking victims, compared with €4,000 in 2014.

Commenting on the findings, Brian Killoran, chief executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland said: “What is needed to ensure the safety of those affected is strong anti-trafficking laws and close cooperation between the State agencies working in the area and civil society support organisations."

“While the report praises the Irish Government for introducing the Sexual Offences Bill to criminalise the purchase of commercial sex, the Immigrant Council again renews its call for the Government to advance the legislation as a matter of urgency. This most recent U.S. State Department report clearly shows that it is more important now than ever before, that we as a society end the demand and exploitation of victims of trafficking in the sex industry.”

The Immigrant Council said today that it is time now for the Government to take action to improve the current situation for victims of human trafficking.

Anti-Trafficking Manager of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Nusha Yonkova, said: “We must offer hope to those who are vulnerable and we are committed to working closely with the Government to develop new policies and best practice following this report”.