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Ireland ranked worst in western Europe for tackling human trafficking

The annual trafficking report by a US State department has worsened Ireland’s ranking this year.

Green: tier one. Yellow: tier two. Orange: tier two watchlist. Red: tier three.
Green: tier one. Yellow: tier two. Orange: tier two watchlist. Red: tier three.
Image: US government

IRELAND HAS BEEN downgraded in an assessment of its response to eliminating human trafficking by a US State department annual report.

The Trafficking in Persons Report 2020 was published by the US Department of State yesterday. 

This report reduced Ireland’s ranking from tier two to a tier two watchlist, meaning the country has not increased its efforts to eliminate trafficking since last year. 

Other countries in this category include Armenia, Chad, Hong Kong and Romania. Ireland is the only country in western Europe in this watchlist.

It says Ireland doesn’t fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so.

“The government continued to have systematic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance,” the report says. 

“The government continued to lack specialised accommodation and adequate services for victims, and the amended working scheme for sea fishers increased their vulnerability to trafficking.”

It says there have no been trafficking convictions since law amendments in 2013 which “weakened deterrence, contributed to impunity for traffickers, and undermined efforts to support victims to testify”. 

Ireland was ranked in tier one until 2018 when it was reduced to tier two. It was reduced further to the tier two watchlist this year. 

A country’s ranking is based on the government’s efforts to combat trafficking as measured against minimum standards and compared to its efforts in the year prior. 

These efforts include awareness raising and reaffirming its commitment to enacting anti-trafficking legislation.   

However, the report says Ireland has increased prosecutions and funding to NGOs for victim assistance. 

The government didn’t show an increased effort overall compared to the last reporting period, the report adds.

It says “human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Ireland” as well as exploiting victims from Ireland abroad. 

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Ruhama, an Irish charity offering support to women affected by commercial sexual exploitation, said the “vast majority of trafficking victims remain undetected”.

“We must be under no illusions-sex trafficking is happening in every city, town and village across the country,” the CEO of Ruhama, Barbara Condon, said. 

Many victims are too fearful of violent repercussions from their traffickers for them and their families to report them. Traffickers also instil a deep fear of authorities in their victims to prevent them from coming forward.

Condon said “safe, secure, gender-specific” acommodation is needed for victims of sex trafficking living in Direct Provision “as a matter of urgency”.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland, a migrant rights NGO, said Ireland’s reduced ranking “came as no surprise to many front line services assisting victims”.

“Trafficking for sexual exploitation in Ireland remains pervasive, hidden and widely spread.” said Dr Nusha Yonkova, an anti-trafficking and gender expert at the Immigrant Council. 

“This trend mirrors the situation in the other European countries and sadly, migrant women and girls are the largest cohort of victims.” 

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