Deputy Toibin on the Government’s response to the crisis in Ukraine

Deputy Peadar Toibin addressing the risk of Adult and Child Trafficking in Ireland amidst the arrival of vulnerable Ukranian Adults and Children

 

Calls for a reform of Ireland’s National Referral Mechanism

Original News by Ailbhe Conneely, RTE

A number of leading civil society organisations have called on the Government to reform the system that identifies human trafficking in Ireland.

Seven organisations have written to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, requesting a revision to the National Referral Mechanism or NRM which was approved by Cabinet last year.

The NRM provides a way for State and civil society to cooperate, share information about potential victims, identify those victims and facilitate their access to advice, accommodation and support.

Organisations say its revision is crucial because of the expected rise in exploitation of women and children fleeing war in Ukraine.

Akidwa, Doras, the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), International Transport Workers’ Federation, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), MECPATHS, and Ruhama have collectively expressed concern that the NRM will not have the capacity to deal with an increase in trafficking victims in Ireland.

They have asked Ms McEntee to urgently consult with them on the matter.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, which is Ireland’s National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings, has echoed calls for the NRM to be progressed.

Its anti-trafficking unit has said the current war and refugee crisis highlights the need for Ireland to be properly prepared in identifying cases early.

Nusha Yonkova said: “The war has generated an unprecedented number of refugees – mostly women and children – they’ve left with little or nothing at all, so they’re quite vulnerable. Criminal organisations, gangs and individuals are taking advantage of the most vulnerable, so we have to be anticipating, monitoring and acting now to elimnate any of this happening in Ireland as much as we can.”

The Immigrant Council of Ireland, which is one of the organisations that wrote to Ms McEntee, said action needed to be taken before the situation in Ireland deteriorated further as thousands of extremely vulnerable Ukrainian women and children will enter the country.

CEO Brian Kiloran said: “The current NRM – in particular the identification system, which already struggles to identify victims – will not be able to deal with an increase in trafficking victims. We need an immediate overhaul and a robust system which will allow us to identify victims, ensure they are released from exploitation, and supported in dealing with their trauma.”

He also said the NRM was applicable to all suspected victims, not just Ukrainian refugees.

“We have been calling on Minister McEntee to meet with us on this subject for a number of months, and we hope that we are given the opportunity to consult with her on these crucial reforms soon.”

Echoing the ICI’s comments, CEO of Ruhama Barbara Condon expressed “deep concerns” about the risk of exploitation to women and children fleeing the war.

“There are unprecedented numbers of people displaced from their country and we have seen time and time again that traffickers and opportunists exploit the vulnerabilities of women and children crossing borders for safety. Through our frontline work we see each day the deep level of trauma and the severe destruction caused by trafficking of women for sexual exploitation.”

According to the MRCI’s Senior Legal Officer Isabel Toolan many cases of trafficking for labour exploitation go undetected due to lack of awareness.

“Organisations and communities who come into direct contact with potential victims need to be trained on the signs of human trafficking. This is brought into sharp focus by the arrival of thousands of vulnerable people. Exploitation and trafficking are real risks when people are uprooted and desperate, when they don’t speak the language of the country or know the system and their rights.”

While many people in Ireland believe that trafficking means the transportation of people into the country, Nusha Yonkova says that is the crime of human smuggling.

“Trafficking means the exploitation of people. Therefore, a refugee could arrive in Ireland and stay here for a couple of years but due to his or her vulnerability they could become vulnerable to trafficking which could occur at that point.”

Some of the examples of trafficking in Ireland include sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, domestic work, forced begging, forced criminality and forced marriage.

MECPATHS, which is a charity that works with children who are trafficked, has worked with the Irish Hotels Federation and others to train staff in how to recognise the signs of trafficking.

Network and Communications Manager JP O’Sullivan said MECPATHS is happy to offer training for anyone wishing to learn more and to contribute to the increased safeguarding and protection of children, globally.

“We are aware of the heightened vulnerability of children travelling to Ireland from the Ukraine and wish to respond in whatever way we can.”

On a positive note, Ms Yonkova says that by using the Temporary Residence Directive, the EU’s response has been commendable.

“The fact we offer free PPS numbers helps. It means they don’t have to go into hiding so its difficult for those that want to exploit them or bogus systems to do so.”

Hospitality Award for MECPATHS

 

LuxLife Global Hospitality Awards

MECPATHS: Social Innovation Award 2021

MECPATHS are pleased to receive The 2021 LuxLife Hospitality Award for Social Innovation. With The Hospitality Industry remaining at the core, and in the foundation, of the work, this recognition of added-value and innovation comes following a challenging 18 months of restricted working and revised work practices for all. The project work has continued throughout the period of change and has evolved to meet the challenges and needs of an already challenged industry and a world of Human Trafficking which remained undeterred by pandemics, restrictions and lockdowns.

“After a significantly tough year for the industry, it brings me great pleasure to announce the return of the 6th annual Hospitality Awards!

No event has impacted the The Hospitality industry like the Coronavirus, which has had a significant effect on all businesses and individuals from all across the globe. LUXlife aims to support and reward those key individuals who have gone above and beyond for their customers and clients, even in such unprecedented times.

These awards are committed to recognising everyone across the hospitality space and allow us to provide our readers with a true representation of the very best that this industry, which is crucial for the well-being of clients around the world, offers.

As with all LUXlife Awards, the Hospitality Awards 2021 are based on merit, not the number of votes received. Our process works to ensure that we reward parties based on their excellence in the industry, the quality of their products and their dedication to service. To move successfully from nominee to winner, there must be evidence of extensive expertise and skills, dedication to customer service and client satisfaction with an ongoing commitment to excellence and innovation”. (Steven Simpson, LuxLife Awards Manager) 

E-Learning Launch

 

To coincide with World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on Friday, 30th July, MECPATHS is pleased to officially launch an online e-learning platform which aims to educate a range of industries on how to identify and report suspicions of human trafficking, particularly child trafficking, in their sector.

Established in 2013, MECPATHS is the only non-profit organisation in the Republic of Ireland which raises awareness of the presence of child trafficking activity in Ireland, specifically educating and advocating for the protection of children from trafficking for exploitation through identification and reporting.
As the only non-profit in Ireland which works in partnership with the Hospitality Industry and Services Sectors to prevent Child Trafficking, through their new interactive online learning platform, MECPATHS will enhance existing protective measures. Working in direct partnership with, and providing training to Hotel Groups and Hospitality providers; industry bodies such as the Private Security Authority, airline staff and frontline professionals; as well as Hospitality Training Colleges, Universities, and private industries, MECPATHS is now in a position to provide remote learning which will raise further awareness and help to protect children from exploitation.
Speaking at the launch of MECPATHS’ e-learning platform, Ann Mara, Education Manager, MECPATHS said “It is critical that people are aware that the illegal activity of child trafficking for exploitation is happening in Ireland; and that specific industries are the most likely to bear witness to it. For example, Hospitality Industry staff are amongst those most likely to encounter a victim of child trafficking as traffickers can take advantage of the privacy and anonymity that hotels and accommodation providers offer. Our new e-learning platform will educate people on what child trafficking is, the identifiable signs that may indicate a child is or has been trafficked, and the mechanisms available to report a concern or case of child trafficking.”
In 2021, The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) advised that “Ireland is not screening for victims of Child Trafficking”; and Ireland is one of just two European countries which has been named on a “tier two” watchlist, the third lowest of four rankings, by the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, due to inadequate responses taken to tackle human trafficking.
Commenting on this, JP O’Sullivan, Network and Communication Manager, MECPATHS said “In the Irish context, in 2020 38 people were identified as having been trafficked, 26 in trafficking for sexual exploitation and 12 for labour exploitation, yet no children were identified, at a time of heightened vulnerability for so many already vulnerable children. In 2019 however, 42 were identified, 9 of which were children. 2020 was the fourth consecutive year of decreasing victim identification and saw the fewest victims identified since 2013. These findings do not add up, and the prevalence of human trafficking in Ireland is likely much higher than the official statistics report. This necessitates the work of MECPATHS, which raises awareness that child trafficking does indeed exist here. Our message in relation to child trafficking is ‘Know it, see it, say it’, and our e-learning platform can help to educate people nationwide on how to do this”.
Since its foundation, MECPATHS has worked closely with the Hospitality Industry to deliver free-of-charge workshops on trafficking, to support hotels in their efforts to ensure the safeguarding and protection of all; and has proudly partnered with many leading hotel brands including PREM Group, Dalata, Trigon Hotel Group and The Gleneagle Hotel Group, along with a wide-range of independent and family-owned hotels.
Speaking at the launch of the e-learning platform, Sarah Marr, Group Human Resources Manager, PREM Group, Ireland and UK said “The more awareness there is of this social problem, the more progress can be made in dismantling this multi-billion criminal industry. Through remote learning, all our team members in Ireland will continue to be educated on the signs that could be an indication of child trafficking taking place and, most importantly, they will know how to report their suspicions.”
MECPATHS invites companies to get in touch at info@mecpaths.ie if they would like to learn more about the free-of-charge e-learning workshops. If you have any concerns relating to child trafficking, or would like to find out more, visit www.mecpaths.com.
ENDS
For further information contact:
Alison O’Brien; Alison O’Brien PR; 086 6023488; alison@alisonobrienpr.ie

Evoke: Ann Mara’s mission

 

After travelling the world, spending time in America, Kenya and South Africa, Irish woman Ann Mara returned to Ireland in 2016, where she began to work with MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts for Child Protection Against Trafficking with the Hospitality and Services Sector). This organisation is the only non-profit in the Republic of Ireland that raises awareness of the presence of human trafficking activity in the country which is more prolific than many people know.

It works specifically in the area of trafficking of children for exploitation, teaching people how to identify and report it. During her time with the organisation, Ann has seen some harrowing cases, from physical abuse to forced labour and sexual abuse of young children.

Ann tells EVOKE human trafficking has been a growing issue on our shores. ‘Human trafficking, which includes child trafficking, is a human rights issue that is growing in prevalence across the globe, and Ireland is not immune to this crime,’ she explains.

You can read the full feature here

UCC Alumni Spotlight

 

JP O’Sullivan is the Networks and Communications Manager of MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts for Child Protection against Trafficking with the Hospitality and Services Sectors), the only non-profit in the Republic of Ireland which aims to prevent the trafficking of children, and to enhance the protection of those who may be trafficked through identification and reporting. He joined MECPATHS in 2017 with a qualified background in social work and experience of programme design, development and implementation in adult mental health services. He was responsible for the establishment of a community-based ‘back to work’ programme in North Cork which supported the return of young adults to their own communities and their restoration of positive mental health. He also spent eight years working in international development, with an early experience of working in India as a student social worker. In addition, JP works in consultancy for international non-profits and social enterprises.

Course/subjects studied in UCC and year of graduation?

I studied Social Science (2003-2006) at undergraduate level and a Masters in Social Work (2006-2008) through the School of Applied Social Studies.

What does your job entail?

My day-to-day work involves network extension and the collaborative delivery of education on human trafficking in Ireland, with a particular focus on child trafficking. I work across a variety of networks including hospitality, security, recruitment and child protection/safeguarding. The work allows for a lot of International network engagement and travel, when we can. The sharing of learning across countries is vital and is the cornerstone of the progressive strategic planning for our work. When we work with groups, it is great to see the transformation from the beginning with the common question asked: “Is human trafficking a thing in Ireland?” – to the end when feedback includes: “Yeah, I had an experience once where I saw x,y,z but didn’t know what it was. I knew there was something not right… now I know what it was.” Being able to measure impact so quickly is great.

Read the full feature here

Social Justice Innovation

 

MECPATHS are pleased to announce the receipt of a Corporate LiveWire Award for Social Justice Innovation & Excellence 2021. The award follows a challenging year for many whose ways of working were altered due to Covid-19. The team at MECPATHS recognise the important role collaboration plays throughout the pandemic to ensure the work of the project continues and expands. With an increased extension of the project work, the close collaborations with The Gardaí and The Department of Justice remain key to the projects success.

The Corporate LiveWire Awards represent the pinnacle of business achievement, championing the best in their respective fields, the awards cover the most important sectors of business, from Finance advisories, Funding providers to Law firms and specialist advisory companies that deal with mergers and acquisitions. The culmination of the awards is the Global Award, covering businesses of every type that have proven their excellence throughout the year and years past.

Award for MECPATHS

 

We are delighted to announce that following the nomination of MECPATHS for a European Enterprise Award in Autumn 2020, we received notification that MECPATHS has been successful in its category, Social Justice Enterprise of the Year 2021 (Human Trafficking).

The award notification comes at a time when Ireland becomes more active in its efforts to counter the exploitation of children with the ratification of The Lanzarote Convention secured and the introduction of The Criminal Justice (Exploitation of Children in the Commission of Offences) Bill which makes it a criminal offence for an adult to compel or coerce, or induce or invite, a child to engage in criminal activity.

The new measures were introduced in the wake of the Greentown findings, a four-year project by researchers in University of Limerick published in 2017. It concluded that criminal gangs were recruiting and exploiting children as young as 11 years by using drugs, alcohol and the notion of status.

MECPATHS remains appreciative of all those who make up our network of supporters and to those who commit to bringing about increased safety measures and protections for all children.

 

 

Do Disturb: Radio Documentary

 

MECPATHS was delighted to be invited to collaborate with documentary producer Patricia Baker on a Human Trafficking in Ireland radio feature. Do Disturb has now been completed and its launch is timely, with the recent launch of The US State Departments Annual Trafficking in Persons Report.

The documentary, Do Disturb, features Sr. Mary Ryan, Ann Mara, JP O’ Sullivan, PREM Group HR Manager Sara Marr, Kevin Hyland O.B.E. and Hazel Larkin. It awakens conversations on Human Trafficking in Ireland and sets the national context within a global phenomenon. With thanks to Patricia for her skills, guidance, patience and professionalism.

To listen to the documentary and find more of Patricia’s work, please click here