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Lack of awareness in homelessness sector about possibility of men being trafficked, report finds

Research findings showed there are and have been victims of human trafficking living in homeless accommodation services across Dublin.

THERE IS A lack of awareness in the homelessness sector in Ireland about the possibility of men being trafficked, a new study has found. 

Irish homeless charity Depaul undertook a research partnership with UK based charity The Passage, which works in the field of modern slavery and homelessness, to look at the potential links between homelessness and human trafficking in Ireland. 

Mapping and evaluation focussed on Dublin and research findings showed that there are and have been victims of human trafficking living in homeless accommodation services across Dublin, echoing the current situation in London.

Findings found that as Ireland moves towards introducing legislation for the provision of support for victims of human trafficking, a multi-agency approach must be taken to identify and support these victims and that providers of homeless services have a critical role within the delivery of the Government’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking.

Results show that most homelessness organisations believe that they are coming into contact with victims of trafficking but recognise that they have insufficient knowledge and awareness to identify victims.

The report outlined that it is not clear whether the potential victims of trafficking encountered by homelessness organisations were homeless before or after being trafficked and were targetted because of their vulnerability. 

Overall, there seems to be an absence of training, policies and procedures within organisations which means that staff aren’t equipped to look out for the signs that someone may have been trafficked, the report found. 

The report did note that there was more awareness of trafficking as something that can be experienced by migrants and women, particularly in sexual exploitation.

However, it said there was a lack of awareness about the potential for men to be trafficked. 

Irish nationals were not seen as potential victims either. 

Participants in the study were aware of the role of An Garda Síochána in reporting processes, but the report said there appeared to be a lack of knowledge about the referral pathways to provide clear support for the victims. 

The research has identified that there are many missed opportunities to identify victims and provide them with the support they are entitled to as a human right and as included in the EU Directive for Human Trafficking.

The report has called on politicians and decision makers to involve homelessness organisations in the introduction of the National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking.

Six recommendations are being proposed in the report: 

  • Develop additional trauma informed specialist accommodation services for victims of trafficking. 
  • Develop a multi-agency approach. 
  • Homelessness organisations should improve information recording and systematically collect relevant data.
  • Training and awareness raising for homelessness sector staff.
  • Produce an online toolkit. 
  • Further research on the links between homelessness and human trafficking to understand the scope and scale of victims of human trafficking experiencing homelessness in Ireland.

For the report, an online survey was sent to homelessness organisations in Dublin through the Dublin Homelessness Network. The survey asked for a combination of quantitative and qualitative responses in order to create a snapshot of the experience and skills of homelessness organisations in working with victims of trafficking. 

Following this, a focus group was held with the Homelessness Network, which was attended by 14 people from seven organisations. 

Further, several individual interviews with representatives from key agencies were held in order to gain a wider perspective on the issues. 

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