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Anti human trafficking report calls for gender-specific accommodation for victims

The national anti-trafficking rapporteur listed education, the war in Ukraine and age identification as concerns.

Image: Shuttestock/Yupa Watchanakit

THE FIRST ANTI-TRAFFICKING report from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has made several recommendations to the government for improving its methods of supporting victims of human trafficking.

The commission found that gender-specific shelter is urgently needed for victims, as they are currently placed into the Direct Provision system.

The report referred to this as “a system marred with serious human rights and equality concerns”, and noted that victims of sexual exploitation in particular may find it traumatic to live in close quarters to people of the opposite gender.

Figures released in today’s report showed that from 2013 to 2021, there had been 475 victims of human trafficking brought to the attention of non-governmental organisations or the state.

315 of these victims were women, the majority of which (238) were trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Of the 159 men trafficked, 123 were being exploited for their labour, often in what the IHREC deems to be “high-risk sectors” such as the fishing industry, food production, agriculture and domestic work.

26 girls and eight boys had also been trafficked in the same period but no child victims were identified in the past two years.

Children represent 9% of all victims here, significantly less than the EU average of 22%.

However the report pointed out that Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) does not currently have approved internal guidelines on age-assessments for use in determining the age of unaccompanied minors.

It noted that classification of data may obscure the true extent of child trafficking in the State.

Chief Commissioner of the IHREC, Sinead Gibney, stated: “Trafficking in human beings is a gross human rights violation and a crime generating high returns that fuel organised criminal activities. Trafficking is highly gendered and highly racialised, and affects migrant women and girls disproportionally.”

“Despite public perception, Ireland is far from immune to trafficking. Year after year, the experiences of front-line responders, the accounts of victims, and the data itself show clearly that human trafficking crimes are being committed in Ireland and people are being exploited in various ways for profit.”

Last year, a report from the United States ranked Ireland as one of the weakest EU states for combating human trafficking, alongside Romania and Belarus. 

“While courts convicted one trafficker under false imprisonment charges, the government has not obtained a trafficking conviction under the anti-trafficking law since it was amended in 2013, which weakened deterrence, contributed to impunity for traffickers, and undermined efforts to support victims to testify,” the report said. 

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It did however praise some measures the state was undertaking, such as designating the IHREC the independent human trafficking national rapporteur.

The report also stated that the recent mass displacement of people and the humanitarian crises caused by the war against Ukraine has been a source of concern for the IHREC.

It warned that traffickers exploit this chaos leaving women and children at a heightened risk of exploitation. 

The report called for every Ukrainian arriving in Ireland to be given an information leaflet on human trafficking in Ukrainian.

The report also highlighted the fact that people with refugee status can avail of free third level education if they’ve been living in Ireland for over three years.

However, a victim of trafficking, whether adult or child, is not entitled to access free third-level no matter their length of stay unless they have been granted refugee status. 

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