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Testimonies from trafficked victims in Ireland: 'I didn't feel safe, men were hitting on me'

The report noted issues around privacy, integration, nutrition and delays in processing applications.

Image: Pattysan via Shutterstock

AN EU-FUNDED REPORT has highlighted the failings in the Irish State’s approach to dealing with victims of trafficking, criticising its provision of privacy and life autonomy.

Although Ireland’s asylum seeking process has been criticised before, this report by the Immigrant Council of Ireland specifically looks at how delays in the system and a lack of integration negatively affects victims of trafficking in Ireland.

The delays and lack of communication with applicants for asylum was noted as a prominent, repeated problem.

One victim of trafficking said:

I’m not sure if it was just for me, or all of the other women, but for me it took so long. I almost gave up.
Because I didn’t have enough feedback from them with my case, I was close to giving up. I remember I tried to take my own life twice when I was in direct provision. Just because it was taking so long.
I didn’t know what’s going to happen to me. And at least it would deal with me quicker. I know they have to carry out their investigation but in my case it was definitely too long.”

Between 2012 and 2016 there were 311 victims of trafficking detected by or reported to An Garda Síochána, the majority of whom were women.

But Nusha Yonkova, anti-trafficking manager at the Immigrant Council of Ireland says that figure is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Yonkova added that urgent action was needed “to streamline the identification process so asylum seekers can be formally identified as victims of trafficking”.

According to the report, victims said they had “feelings of hopelessness” as they waited for a decision regarding their application, all while living in direct provision, “in some instances for years at a time”.

A lack of privacy was also cited as a huge problem, as it could “exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues”.

One victim said:

It bothered me that there were men. Me, I’m very shy kind of. After what happened to me, you know I don’t know. I feel less confident. About myself. Like I am worthless… I did not feel safe. Men were hitting on me.
I was going through a tough time. I was really depressed. And I was on medication. I didn’t sleep. Sometimes when you have somebody in the room, they can talk all night and you want to sleep or sometimes in the morning they turn on the light early, they would be talking and sometimes they want to bring their friends in. So it’s just like, too much.

“A number of those interviewed” for the report also cited a lack of trust in Irish authorities:

I think the government should please help the girls who are trafficked, trafficking is very difficult. It’s not the way they say that people come here to tell lies, it’s not everybody that comes to Ireland to seek asylum tells lies. Some of them are saying the truth. And some of them need help.

The report recommended for a much swifter process of identifying trafficking victims, including those in the asylum process, as well as more compassionate, gender-specific accommodation.

It also mentioned that staff dealing with applicants needed “ongoing and effective training” and legal representation for asylum seekers needed to be provided, among other recommendations.

The report, entitled Identification and Response to the Needs of Trafficked Asylum Seekers, was published by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and co-funded by the EU.

You can read the full report here.

Read: ‘Most prostitution here is run by organised crime gangs’: Irish service helped 92 victims of sex trafficking in 2016

Read: Ireland ‘failing’ victims of human trafficking as number detected here rises

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