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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.”

Cork Hotels working to end child trafficking

 

A CHARITY revealed how Cork hotels are becoming increasingly vulnerable to child sex trafficking.

JP O’Sullivan from MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts for Child Protection Against Trafficking with the Hospitality Sector) shed light on how the organisation’s training led to the rescue of a child in a Cork hotel.

Established in 2013 by the Sisters of Mercy, MECPATHS offers training to help those in the hospitality industry pinpoint signs of child trafficking.

He referred to one recent incident by way of explanation. “We have volunteers visiting hotels all over the country, but this one just so happened to be in Cork,” he said.

To read the full article, click here

Children are Being Trafficked into Ireland by their Own Families

IRELAND IS BEING used as a destination for child sex slaves, according to the EU’s policing agency.

A new report by Europol shows that international criminal groups, particularly from Nigeria, are using established trafficking networks and the cover afforded by the migrant crisis to smuggle minors into northern European countries like Ireland for sale into the sex trade and other criminal enterprises.

The report details the testimony involved in more than 600 cases concerning the trafficking of underage victims within EU member states between 2015 and 2017.

It details the ‘particularly harmful’ EU crime networks of ‘large family clans’ which traffic children for the purposes of begging, criminality and sexual exploitation, with those clans operating in multiple countries at any one time and rotating their victims on a regular basis.

All told, 268 cases of trafficking with minor victims involved for the purposes of exploitation were documented, with 985 victims identified and 3,642 suspects detailed.

34 of those cases involved minor victims exclusively.

In the case of children, the role of the family is particularly stark, with people engaging in the trafficking and exploitation of their own children.

To read the full article: click here

The largest facilitator of images of child sexual exploitation…

The Irish man accused of being the world’s largest facilitator of [images of child sexual exploitation] has made his first appearance in a US court following his extradition.

Gardaí handed Mr Marques (33) over to the FBI at Dublin Airport on Saturday after his six-year legal battle against extradition came to an end in the Supreme Court last week.

Mr Marques, who holds the dual US and Irish citizenship but has lived in Ireland since childhood, is accused of renting out server space which was used to host a vast array of child abuse images and videos around the world. He is alleged to have made hundreds of thousands of euro from advertising and distributing the material.

He was first arrested in Dublin in 2013 following an international investigation involving the FBI, the Garda and Europol.

Mr Marques appeared in the in US District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland earlier on Monday. US magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan remanded him in custody until Wednesday when Mr Marques will enter a plea to the four charges against him.

Announcing the charges, prosecuting US Attorney Robert K. Hur thanked the Irish authorities for extraditing the accused.

“Criminals cannot hide on the dark web or in foreign countries. We will find them and bring them to justice. We are grateful to Irish authorities for their assistance to bring Eric Marques to the United States to face these charges.”

FBI Assistant Director Robert Johnson commented: “Today’s extradition of Eric Marques demonstrates that no matter where you are in the world, the FBI and it’s international law enforcement partners will be diligent in their efforts to hold you accountable for your criminal activity.”

To read the full Irish Times article, click here

(c) Irish Times

A survivor of Child Trafficking speaks out…

 

MECPATHS were extremely fortunate in 2018 to meet with a survivor of Child Trafficking. Maya, a young person from The United Kingdom, experienced first-hand what it is to be trafficked for the purpose of exploitation.

Maya’s strength of self and her willingness to educate and keep others safe is remarkable. Her sharing of story and her commitment to developing a world where Child Trafficking is no longer is inspiring.

Please take some time to listen to Maya’s journey here:

Six children saved from sex slavery in Northern Ireland

The PSNI saved six children from potential sex slavery in 2018, it has been revealed. They were among 52 potential victims of human trafficking, a 68% increase on the previous year.

The figures are based on reports to the National Crime Agency’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Of those referred to the system, 32 were women, 20 were men and 17 were minors.

The six minors reported for possible sexual exploitation were all female.

In total, 20 referrals came about as a result of claims of sexual exploitation.

Those people referred came from 17 different nationalities.

Seven came from the UK, and there were also seven referrals of Chinese and Romanian nationals. The National Referral Mechanism, or NRM, is the government system designed to identify and support victims, while making the prosecution of traffickers easier. Suspected victims are given 45 days to recover while the Home Office investigates their case. A decision on whether their claim is genuine should be made “as soon as possible” after this.

A positive decision could affect their immigration status and the likelihood of them facing criminal charges. To access the full BBC News Article, Click here

Ireland: An abusive reality behind closed doors

Aoife Nic Ardghail and Declan Brennan

A UK resident who repeatedly travelled to Dublin to have sex with a teenage girl who he claimed he was in love with has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

The Central Criminal Court heard that then 25-year-old man and the 16-year-old became engaged at one point and he told gardaí he was in love with her. Mr Justice Paul Coffey said that it wasn’t love and said that the man was satisfying his sadistic urges by exploiting “a mere child”.

He met the girl online in mid-2016 and began travelling here to have sex with her. She was 15 when he first had sex with her and then continued to meet her for sex after she turned 16.

The pair met in hotel rooms and he recorded some of the sexual encounters on his phone. Mr Justice Coffey said the “clandestine nature” of the relationship between him and the victim indicated that he knew what he was doing was wrong. He said the defendant was controlling, possessive and manipulative.

To read the full media article, click here

“I Think We Have A Sex Trafficking Situation Going On”

A hoteliers experience of Sex Trafficking on their premises. These incidents take place, globally, daily. Knowing what to identify and how to respond is vitally important. Each of us has a role to play in keeping people safe and responding when things go wrong. Please contact us to learn what to look out for and how to help.