Number of trafficking victims identified drops in recent years – ESRI

Sexual exploitation was most common purpose people were trafficked, study finds

The number of suspected victims of human trafficking identified in the State has steadily decreased in recent years, according to new research from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The number of suspected trafficking victims dropped from 75 identified in 2017 down to 38 victims in 2020.

The ESRI research into human trafficking statistics, published on Wednesday, said six out of 10 suspected victims between 2015 and 2020 were women.

Over the five-year period, some 356 suspected victims of trafficking were recorded by authorities.


Sexual exploitation was the most common purpose people were trafficked, which accounted for 182 cases. The vast majority of those cases involved women, some 173, however, eight men and one transgender individual were among those trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Labour exploitation was the second most common purpose victims were trafficked, with men more than twice as likely as women to be victims. Some 21 people were found to be victims trafficked into forced criminality, the study said.

The number of suspected victims identified by authorities fell from 75 in 2017 down to 64 in 2018, and again down to 42 people in 2019, and 38 during 2020.

Researchers suggested the Covid-19 pandemic may partially explain the low numbers of trafficking victims identified by authorities in 2020.

The statistics for the ESRI study were drawn from the Department of Justice.

Four out of 10 suspected trafficking victims found in Ireland came from Africa, with similar numbers from elsewhere in Europe, and smaller numbers of victims from Asia and South America.

The research said Ireland ranked around the European Union average for the number of suspected victims identified by authorities.

Researchers said “several challenges” had been raised about the current process for identifying victims of trafficking resting solely with An Garda Síochána, such as victims being afraid to come forward to police.

The study noted that the Government has recently moved to reform the process to allow a number of other State bodies and non-government organisations identify and refer victims of trafficking to support services.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times