Human Trafficking in Ireland
Human trafficking in Ireland is higher than the official statistics report. In fact, Ireland stands as a Tier 2 Watch List country for a second year in relation to efforts to eliminate human trafficking, according to the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Department of State compiles annual Trafficking in Persons Reports that rank governments in their efforts to end human trafficking.

The Tier 2 Watchlist country ranking means the government is not meeting the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) but is actively working to meet those standards. The TVPA establishes “methods of prosecuting traffickers, preventing human trafficking and protecting victims and survivors of trafficking.”

Why is Ireland a Tier 2 Watch List Country?

The Ireland government has made many efforts to align with the TVPA, such as “designating an independent human trafficking national rapporteur and establishing a formal national anti-trafficking forum” and starting a “national anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.” The Irish government has also extended monetary support for victim assistance, awareness efforts and anti-trafficking training.

Despite these efforts, Ireland did not demonstrate an overall increase in growth from the previous 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP). The government continued to struggle with victim identification and assistance and lacked support services for victims. The 2021 TIP Report specifies that the Irish government “investigated and prosecuted fewer suspected traffickers, did not prosecute any labor traffickers and victim identification decreased for the fourth year in a row.”

Ireland’s Response to the 2021 TIP Report

“While there have been some positive efforts, including the appointment of the Commission as rapporteur, and in recent weeks, the first trafficking conviction since 2013, the reality today is that Ireland continues to fall below minimum standards compared to other developed nations,” Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Sinéad Gibney said in July 2021.

“It was very disappointing that the U.S. State Department did not acknowledge the significant progress made by Ireland over the past 12 months as sufficient to upgrade our ranking in the latest Trafficking in Persons Report, I am confident that the work we are doing should be reflected in the next TIP Report and that Ireland’s ranking should be upgraded accordingly,” Minister of State at the Department of Justice Hildegarde Naughton said in a September 2021 parliamentary discussion.

Is Human Trafficking in Ireland Improving?

From 2017 to 2019, Ireland detected 181 trafficking victims, while from 2019 to 2021, Ireland detected 124 victims, which equals about a 30% decrease. This decrease may link to the global COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The 2021 TIP Report said that authorities identified 38 victims in 2020, the lowest number of identified victims since 2013.

Overall, human trafficking in Ireland is reducing according to the numbers, but the 2021 TIP Report says that there are even more victims than official statistics say and does not provide conclusive insight as to why. The 2021 TIP Report stated that an “independent and comprehensive 2021 study found that from 2014-2019, the true number of trafficking victims was approximately 38[%] higher than the official national statistics.”

The 2021 TIP Report does indicate that traffickers traffic victims from other regions such as Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, and recently, countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Romania.

Organizations Working to End Human Trafficking in Ireland

Ruhama is an Irish non-governmental organization that emerged in 1989 to provide “support to women impacted by prostitution, sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation.” Ruhama offers free services that differ depending on each woman’s circumstances and experiences, including a care plan, counseling and therapy, education and development programs, legal support, housing support, health and wellness support and more. In 2021, Ruhama helped 369 women, with 136 women victims of sex trafficking.

Doras is an anti-trafficking organization that has been helping those affected by human trafficking in Mid-West Ireland since 2011. Its priorities in anti-trafficking advocacy include rehabilitation programs for victims, improved identification and assisting of victims, “increased penalties and custodial sentences” for those benefiting from prostitution, “safe and appropriate gender-specific accommodation” for survivors and more.

As of now, the total victim count for human trafficking in Ireland is decreasing and the government and other organizations are continuing to accelerate efforts to reduce the prevalence of human trafficking in Ireland, prevent it and educate on it, while helping survivors, and identifying victims and accurately reporting information.

– Dylan Olive
Photo: Flickr

Human trafficking is a global problem. Unfortunately, human trafficking in Ireland worsened in the last few years. The U.S. Department of State ranks countries on a three-tier system when it comes to human trafficking. In 2020, Ireland dropped from Tier 1 to Tier 2 watchlist because the country does not meet the minimum standards. However, Ireland is making efforts to eliminate trafficking. Here are four facts about human trafficking in Ireland.

1. In Western Europe, Ireland is the Only Country on the Tier 2 Watchlist.

Ireland now stands with areas of the world like Hong Kong and Romania on the tiered system. In Ireland, the trafficking problem progressively worsened. In 2012, the An Garda Síochána (the Irish police) detected or reported 48 victims, “44 in 2013, 46 in 2014, 78 in 2015 and 95 in 2016.” However, while human trafficking in Ireland intensifies, the rest of Western Europe remains at a higher tier designation.

Additionally, the Irish government did not report on the victims. Yet, the U.S. State Department’s report pointed out that “traffickers subject Irish children to sex trafficking within the country.” Sr Kathleen Bryant, a charity worker, believes Ireland is in “denial” about sex trafficking. She speculates that Ireland cannot admit that Irish people are exploiting one another.

2. Sexual Exploitation Exists Within Human Trafficking in Ireland.

The majority of victims are women. Sadly, the majority of these victims experience sexual exploitation. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime observed that the majority of human trafficking victims in Ireland are victims of sexual exploitation.

Recently, authorities found two women in Ireland guilty of human trafficking. They ran a prostitution ring in Ireland, and their victims journeyed from Nigeria only to experience exploitation in Ireland. One victim described herself as a “sex machine.” Sexual exploitation is a large component of human trafficking in Ireland. The U.N. report shows that 194 victims suffer from sexual abuse by 2016. Additionally, 108 people were victims of forced labor.

3. Labor Trafficking Exists in Ireland.

Besides sex trafficking, labor trafficking is prevalent in Ireland as well. There are at least 8,000 people in Ireland working as slave labor. The traffickers coerce and manipulate people into traveling to Ireland. They work in “the restaurant industry, waste management, fishing, seasonal agriculture and car-washing services.” In particular, many accuse the fishing industry of exploiting migrant workers. The current system leaves migrants with only one employment option, consequently, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.

4. Ruhama is Fighting Human Trafficking in Ireland.

NGOs are fighting to eliminate human trafficking in Ireland. For example, the NGO, Ruhama, is working to give support to victims of human sex trafficking. The U.S. State Department report mentions how the Irish government does a poor job of identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking. Ruhama fills that gap by providing free and confidential assistance to women who are victims of sex trafficking.

Additionally, Ruhama has been lobbying and campaigning to change the systems that allow sex trafficking to happen. Ruhama began in 1989, and it helps thousands of women stuck in prostitution and sex trafficking. Ruhama’s 2019 annual report revealed that Ruhama worked with 116 victims of sex trafficking. Ruhama implements casework, Education & Development Programme, Outreach, Counselling, Bridge to Work, Holistic Therapies and Policy Work to help these women. Ruhama also played a significant part in lobbying for the 2017 Sexual Offences Act which intends to help sex trafficking victims.

Western Europe is one of the wealthiest parts of the world. Yet, human trafficking in Ireland illustrates how poverty around the globe creates problems that spread to every corner of society. Through better government oversight and continued work from organizations like Ruhama, Ireland could eventually regain its Tier 1 status.

– Mike Messina
Photo: Flickr