Direct provision and the housing crisis is causing increased trauma for human trafficking victims and putting them at risk of further exploitation, an EU-funded report has said.
The research, which was carried out under an EU anti-trafficking project and conducted by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said that placing female trafficking victims into mixed-gender settings exposed them to "discrimination practices, a risk of destitution, and a risk of re-trafficking".
It said “shared room, mixed-gender accommodation centres is a wholly inappropriate setting for trafficked women and severely limits their capacity for recovery”.
Staff in such centres are also inadequately trained to support and care for victims, and women have limited access to childcare supports for their children, the report stated.
The housing crisis also makes it extremely difficult for trafficking victims to move from direct provision into private accommodation.
“With the current significant level of overall housing shortages in Ireland, both in terms of private rented accommodation and social housing, the transition from direct provision centres to private accommodation is extremely difficult and costly,” the council said.
This means victims face extended stays in State accommodation which “hinders their recovery, their independence and ability to be integrated and self-sufficient”. It also caused significant costs for the State, it added.
Last year, the Government pledged to open a pilot project to provide specially tailored accommodation for women who have been trafficked, but this has yet to be advanced.
Trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation continues to be the most common form of human trafficking in Ireland, the report states.
Last year 38 human trafficking victims were identified by authorities, of which 26 were being exploited in the sex industry.
Similar to other EU states, men are more likely to be trafficked for labour exploitation such as in the fishing industry.
Earlier this week, the Garda said it was investigating “well over 100” suspects and crimes linked to human trafficking. This includes 13 members of an Irish gang suspected of trafficking women into the country.
The Immigrant Council of Ireland said the number of identified victims of trafficking had fallen in recent years but this was “likely due to deficiencies in the identification process”.
While Covid-19 limited human trafficking in some areas, the sex industry “continued unabated”, the report said.
Research showed that when the pandemic hit, the numbers of women advertised in online forums initially declined, “but within a number of months returned to pre-pandemic levels”.
While acknowledging some reforms in the treatment of trafficking victims, Immigrant Council of Ireland chief executive Brian Killoran said the overall State approach remained "fragmented and is in need of reform".