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    ‘Inadequate’ services for trafficking victims – report

    ‘Inadequate’ services for trafficking victims – report

    TIPS Report 2023

    The Irish government has been requested to offer specialised accommodations to trafficking victims that are safe, appropriate and trauma-informed.

    The recommendation is contained in the latest ‘Trafficking in Persons’ (TIP) report which ranks governments worldwide on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking.

    The latest annual report – which is compiled by the US State Department – sees Ireland at the same ranking as last year.

    It says the Irish government failed to overhaul its accommodation framework for trafficking victims which it said “continued to leave victims with inadequate and unsuitable accommodation last year”.

    The report divides nations into four tiers – Tier One, Tier Two, Tier Two ‘Watchlist’ and Tier Three – based on their compliance with standards in the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

    Tier One is the highest-ranking where governments fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

    Under Tier Two, governments are not fully meeting the minimum standards but are making “significant efforts”, according to the report.

    Below this is the Tier Two ‘Watchlist’ followed by Tier Three, where governments are not fully meeting the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

    Last year, Ireland moved from the Tier Two ‘Watchlist’ to Tier Two and it remains at that ranking again for 2023.

    It means that the Government of Ireland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.

    While the report says there was a decrease in the number of traffickers convicted last year, no one was convicted for labour trafficking under its anti-trafficking law.

    It also described as “chronic”, systemic deficiencies in victim identification, referral and assistance. It said services for victims remained “inadequate”.

    The information contained in the report is based on 2022 data and it notes four reported cases of trafficking of child victims.

    It is the first time children have been reported as trafficking victims since 2019.

    Children represent 8-9% of all victims in Ireland, which is significantly less than the EU average of 25%.

    MECPATHS, which works to raise awareness about child trafficking in Ireland, has described the identified numbers of trafficking victims in the report as “alarmingly low”.

    The charity has appealed to the Government to respond in a consistent, and meaningful manner to child trafficking.

    “It has been a below average response to-date and far behind the responsiveness of our European Neighbours and International Community members”, it said.

    MECPATHS also pointed out that each year, Irish National Children are at risk of being trafficked within their own towns, villages and cities for sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation.

    “With Irish National Children now turning up in other jurisdictions each year as victims of trafficking, we need to be more pro-active in safeguarding children in Ireland and pay particular heed to the recommendations offered by the US State Dept. around specialised accommodation for children”, it said.

    ‘Concerning development’

    The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission described the cases of child trafficking as a “concerning development”.

    The report also said the government did not report providing trafficking-specific training to any judges and that it had “never awarded restitution or compensation to any victims”.

    The TIPS report welcomed the Atypical Working Scheme (AWS) for non-European Economic Area (EEA) sea fishers, which inadvertently increased worker vulnerabilities to trafficking.

    In its capacity as Ireland’s Independent National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings and as Ireland’s National Human Rights and Equality Body, IHREC has called for immediate action regarding the delivery of gender-specific accommodation for victims as promised in the draft National Action Plan.

    In a statement it said the accommodation of victims of trafficking needed an urgent overhaul and could not be treated as a secondary issue when the country faces a housing crisis and an increase in vulnerable people seeking International Protection.

    IHREC said delayed delivery of a specialised shelter for victims of trafficking was “particularly concerning” in light of evidence pointing to the gender-specific nature of trafficking to Ireland.

    Preliminary data analysis of the National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings for the period 2013-2022 shows the greatest form of exploitation in Ireland is trafficking for sexual exploitation, followed by trafficking for labour purposes and to a lesser extent by trafficking for criminal activities.

    IHREC Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said while there had been recent positive developments in the State’s effort to fight exploitation and support victims of human trafficking, the inability to provide appropriate accommodation support to victims remained an ongoing problem.

    “The statistics show us that trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is highly gendered and highly racialised, and it is vital that these most vulnerable victims feel safe and protected when placed in accommodation,” she said.

    Ruhama CEO Barbara Condon has said the demand for sex trafficking is evidently growing with more victims presenting to Ruhama in 2022.

    The organisation engaged with 147 victims of trafficking in 2022, 45 of whom were new referrals, which is a 60%increase on new referrals in 2021.

    Ms Condon said demand for the sex trade among sex buyers is driving the profiteering from human trafficking.

    It is estimated that €180m per year is made in Ireland alone.

    “The sex trade is inherently violent, dangerous and traumatizing to countless individuals every day in Ireland. Ireland has made commitments to achieve zero-tolerance to sexual violence including sexual exploitation”, she said.

    Ms Condon added that this could be achieved through the urgent implementation of the reformed NRM, the revised Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2022, the implementation of the Third National Action Plan to prevent and combat Human Trafficking and the Third National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

    She said: “No progression has been made either in gender-specific accommodation for victims of human trafficking. Victim/survivors are still inappropriately housed in Direct Provision centres which Ireland has been criticised for internationally.”

    Direct Provision is completely inappropriate and unsuitable for anyone who have gone through severely traumatic experiences. They are put at high risk of re-traumatisation and re-trafficking”, she said.

    Ruhama has echoed the IHREC in calling for safe, secure, gender-specific accommodation to be prioritised as a matter of urgency.

    Article published on rte.ie (Ailbhe Conneely)

    JP OSullivan

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