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The majority of child trafficking victims in this country last year were Irish

A US government report was critical of Ireland’s system, which it says is failing to identify trafficking victims.

PEOPLE TRAFFICKING IN Ireland is on the rise, according to a new report, and Irish children were among the victims last year.

A US government study on global trafficking reports 78 suspected victims were identified by gardaí, compared with 46 in 2014.

The report noted:

  • 22 adult victims were Romanian
  • 13 were from Nigeria
  • The rest were from Eastern Europe, Africa and South Asia
  • 52 were female
  • 25 were male
  • One was transgender.

48 victims were potentially exploited in sex trafficking while 28 were exploited in labour trafficking. This included 11 subject to forced labour in temporary Romanian car washes, three for forced begging, and five for forced criminal activity.

The report noted Irish children are “subjected to sex trafficking within the country”.

Victims included 22 children, of which 15 were Irish. However the report notes the Irish government is prosecuting “a high number of non-trafficking crimes as trafficking cases”, including child molestation cases. This means some of the children included in the figures may be wrongly classified as trafficking victims.

In 2015, all of the prosecutions under the anti-trafficking act involved the sexual abuse of children.

Fishing

Following a major investigation by The Guardian into what it classed as ‘modern slavery’ on Irish fishing trawlers, the government identified the maritime industry as a potentially high risk area for human trafficking.

The report had claimed undocumented Ghanaian, Filipino, Egyptian, and Indian migrant workers were routinely subjected to exploitative labour, passport retention, denial of freedom of movement, severe sleep deprivation, verbal and physical abuse, and dangerous working practices.

In 2015, gardaí identified one victim of labour trafficking in the fishing industry. At the time the report was being compiled, the case was still under investigation and the victim was receiving services from the government and NGOs.

Cannabis

The US report noted criticism from NGOs about the lack of protection from prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking.

These organisations reported the Irish government continued to prosecute, convict and imprison Asian victims of forced labour in cannabis production. In 2015, gardaí reported 70 Asian nationals remained in prison related to cannabis offences.

“Authorities did not report how many suspected victims, they ultimately confirmed as trafficking victims,” the study said.

NGOs reported the continued lack of an effective mechanism to identify victims inhibited victims from receiving adequate protection, assistance, and witness preparation, and claimed the standard of proof for victim identification was too high.

Protections

The new protective services bureau in An Garda Síochána is mentioned in the report as it notes additional training given to a number of members of the force last year.

However, it points out that all foreign adult victims from countries outside the EU were placed in Direct Provision accommodation This is something NGOs have been critical of in the past as vulnerable people, sometimes victims of sexual violence, are being housed in centres with large numbers of other asylum seekers.

Four investigations last year were closed and will not be prosecuted due to various factors, including a lack of evidence and lack of cooperation from witnesses.

“NGOs believed the government put too much emphasis on law enforcement cooperation from victims,” according to the report.

Victims are provided with a 60-day reflection period to decide whether to assist gardaí as well as a six month temporary residency, during which they are required to cooperate. Authorities granted five victims reflection periods and 28 victims six-month temporary residence permission in 2015.

Recommendations

The report noted that there were no prosecutions or convictions under sex or labour trafficking laws in Ireland in 2015. It went on to say that the failure to identify suspected victims of forced criminal activity, and there subsequent prosecution and imprisonment, remains a “serious concern”.

It recommended the implementation of laws to hold traffickers accountable and an increase in efforts to identify victims so they can be protected from wrongful prosecution.

The provision of specialised emergency accommodation with outreach support to victims was also suggested.

Commenting on the report, Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said closer cooperation is needed between State agencies and 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,” he said.

“This most recent US 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.”

Read: Man and woman jailed for two years for human trafficking offences>

Read: ‘A wake-up call’: There are 800 people living in modern slavery in Ireland>

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