• Clodagh Meaney

Ireland placed on watch list over decline in standards fighting human trafficking

In a report released this week, the government were also criticised for their treatment of victims

By Clodagh Meaney

The Irish Government are not treating survivors of human trafficking appropriately, or meeting minimum standards required in the fight against trafficking, a new report says.

The annual, Trafficking in Persons report published this week by the US Department of State have downgraded Ireland to their tier two watch list, meaning that they will be continuously monitored for their breach of recommendations.

2017 was the last year that Ireland ranked on tier one, slipping to tier two in 2018 and 2019 before being further downgraded to a watch list for 2020.

According to the report, the Irish government have not obtained a trafficking conviction since the law was amended in 2013 which has "weakened deterrence, contributed to impunity for traffickers, and undermined efforts to support victims to testify."

Due to "systematic deficiencies" in victim identification, referral, and assistance, the country was downgraded and placed on TIP's watch list of countries alongside Romania, Azerbaijan and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This came as no surprise to many front line services assisting victims in Ireland, says the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI).

Anti-Trafficking and Gender Expert from ICI,Dr Nusha Yonkova, said that migrant women and children make up the majority of people trafficked into Ireland.

Last year they assisted 27 victims of human trafficking, all but four were trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Trafficking for sexual exploitation in Ireland remains pervasive, hidden and widely spread. This trend mirrors the situation in the other European countries and sadly, migrant women and girls are the largest cohort of victims." “42 victims of trafficking were identified by the Irish Government during 2020, and even the report authors suggest this is a misleadingly low figure," she explained.

"The vast majority were women (38) and the majority of all victims were trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, which mirrors the common trends over the years."

"Ireland’s trafficking victims are from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and South America, and in 2020 authorities and the media reported an increase in suspected victims from Nigeria, Romania, Indonesia, Brazil, and Pakistan." “This year Ireland received its lowest score from the US State Department’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, being downgraded to the Tier 2 watch list," she said, adding: "this puts us among the worst three performing countries in Europe when it comes to our approach to the crime of trafficking in human beings.” Speaking further on the report, Brian Killoran, CEO, Immigrant Council of Ireland, commented on the systematic deficiencies in victim identification, referral and assistance, as laid out by the US Department of State.

“As the Immigrant Council has long identified, the Irish Government’s continued policy of housing of trafficking victims in direct provision is massively problematic for many reasons - not least the utter inappropriateness of accommodating victims of crime within a such a broken housing system."

"Recognising the trauma trafficked women have endured, they must be housed in gender-sensitive accommodation with access to the full range of support services to which they are entitled," he added.

Despite previous high-level recommendations to end Direct Provision for trafficked persons, the report notes that officials have not taken any steps to act on any recommendations since the last report.

The job of identifying victims is still delegated to An Garda Síochána, which the US TIP Report identifies as problematic.

"It creates a potential conflict of interest between enforcing migration law on the one hand, and providing protection to often undocumented migrant victims on the other," explained Brian.

"The report raises the problem with the formal identification as it applies only to undocumented third country nationals, essentially denying formal identification to asylum seekers and EEA nationals." “In addition we know from the services we provide to victims of trafficking, delays in dealing with applications under the Administrative Immigration Arrangement (the singular policy document for undocumented suspected victims of trafficking) continue and have resulted in victims of trafficking becoming undocumented."

"This has knock-on impacts for their access to accommodation, social welfare and other state supports," he concluded. If you've been affected by any of the themes in this article, please reach out.

Immigration Council of Ireland helpline: 01 6740200

© 2020 by EMPWR

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