Housing trafficking victims in asylum centres sharply criticised

Department of Justice defends accommodation but promises it will be reviewed

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings  stressed the need to  pay increased attention to prevention and protection measures addressing the particular vulnerability of children to trafficking. File photograph: iStockPhoto

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings stressed the need to pay increased attention to prevention and protection measures addressing the particular vulnerability of children to trafficking. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

Ireland’s practice of housing victims of human trafficking in accommodation centres for asylum seekers has been sharply criticised by a report on Ireland’s record on combating trafficking issued on Wednesday.

The complaint reiterates previously unimplemented recommendations from an earlier report by the expert group of the Council of Europe.

In its response to the report, the Department of Justice has defended the accommodation, but does promise it will be reviewed.

The second report by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (Greta), monitors Ireland’s compliance with the CofE’s convention on trafficking.

In its first report, Greta stressed the need to strengthen action to combat trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation and to pay increased attention to prevention and protection measures addressing the particular vulnerability of children to trafficking.

It also urged the authorities to review the policy of accommodating victims of trafficking in centres for asylum seekers and to consider setting up specialised shelters for trafficking victims.

Its second, very detailed report is made after a review of the implementation of the latter and a visit to Ireland that included meetings with ministers, officials from various agencies, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Department of Justice and Equality, and NGOs.

The report notes with approval the passage of legislation that broadened the scope of the definition of “exploitation” to include forcing a person to engage in criminal activities, as well as expanding the definition of the term “labour exploitation” to include forced begging.

Forced marriage

It notes provisions to criminalise forced marriage and make it more difficult to broker a marriage of convenience, and to criminalise the purchase of sexual services, including from trafficked persons.

It welcomes the investments in training, research and public awareness campaigns, and the establishment of new Garda structures such as the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-Ordination Unit, and dedicated groups within the HSE and Legal Aid Board. But it regrets the failure of the co-ordinating Roundtable Forum to meet regularly. And Greta emphasises the need to improve data collection to provide a more comprehensive picture of the challenges.

The report notes important work done to protect workers in areas such as the fishing industry, domestic work and catering, and urges the Government to step up work sensitising labour inspectors, judges and prosecutors to the particular problems arising from trafficking. It calls for reviewing the regulatory systems for migrants working as au pairs and home care workers and ensuring that inspections can take place in private households.

The strengthening of monitoring of recruitment and temporary work agencies needs to be addressed. Greta also urges the authorities to ensure that avenues for compensation are easily accessible to trafficked people, by encouraging prosecutors to request compensation orders in all relevant cases, and by making the State compensation scheme effectively accessible to victims of trafficking.

Serious violation

Specific legal provision is needed on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking for their involvement in unlawful activities, and prosecutors should be encouraged to consider trafficking as a serious violation of human rights when assessing the public interest of prosecuting identified victims of trafficking.

Ireland continues to be primarily a country of destination for trafficked persons, but increasingly has become a country of origin. The number of presumed victims of trafficking reported to or detected by the Garda was 48 in 2012, 44 in 2013, 46 in 2014, 78 in 2015 and 95 in 2016.

The 21 per cent increase in the number in 2016, the report says, can be attributed to one case in which 23 Romanian men were exploited in a waste recycling plant. But the report warns that such figures are likely to be a considerable underestimation because of the difficulty involved in identifying victims.

The majority of victims in Ireland in the period (2012-2016) were female (63 per cent), and 94 of the total were children. Two thirds were subjected to sexual exploitation, and the remainder to a combination of labour and sexual exploitation, forced criminality and forced begging.

Citizens of EU member states constituted the largest group (121), followed by Irish citizens (73), while persons from western Africa, particularly Nigeria, constituted the third largest group (50).

The majority of the Irish victims were children subjected to sexual abuse/child pornography within Ireland.