Call on Irish authorities over human trafficking
Council of Europe report finds number of prosecutions ‘still very low’ in Ireland
The lack of specialised prosecutors in the field in Ireland could be one reason for the low prosecution rate, according to the report’s authors.
The report, which looks at Ireland’s implementation of the Council of Europe’s 2005 anti-trafficking convention, found that gaps in the identification procedure and a low rate of prosecutions could be leading to an under-estimation of the scale of the problem in Ireland.
According to the report, 57 possible victims of human trafficking were reported to An Garda Síochána in 2011, 78 in 2010 and 66 in 2009. The vast majority of victims were from Africa, with two-thirds shipped to Ireland to work in the sex trade.
However, the report from the Strasbourg-based institution found that the number of prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking was “still very low” in Ireland, despite the fact that Ireland has one of the most stringent sentences for those found guilty of human trafficking.
If found guilty, human traffickers can face life imprisonment in Ireland, compared to a jail term of four or five years in some Nordic countries. Only one prosecution had been made under the Human Trafficking Act in Ireland before 2012, though this had risen to eight last year. The lack of specialised prosecutors in the field in Ireland could be one reason for the low prosecution rate, according to the report’s authors.
While the report found that Irish authorities had taken important steps to address the problem of human trafficking, including the adoption of anti-trafficking legislation, it called on the Irish authorities to give non-governmental organisations and other members of civil society a formal role in the identification of trafficking victims, which would separate the identification process from police investigations and criminal proceedings. Greater protection for victims of human trafficking, including an adequate recovery and reflection period, should be granted to victims, as well as adequate compensation, the report said.
In addition, it called on Irish authorities to address the vulnerability of children to trafficking, through measures such as the establishment of an identification mechanism for child victims of trafficking.
The report was compiled following a five-day visit to Ireland last year by Greta, the Council of Europe’s expert group on human trafficking.
Ireland adopted the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings in November 2010. About 40 countries have signed up to the convention. The council, which has 47 member states, is Europe’s main human rights body.
In a detailed response to the report the Department of Justice said Ireland was “pleased to note that Greta commends the important steps taken by Ireland to develop the legal and institutional framework for action”. About the granting of a period of recovery and reflection to victims, it said Ireland’s arrangements are in accordance with the provisions of article 13 of the convention.