On Wednesday the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (Greta) published its latest evaluation report on how Ireland is combatting the crime and protecting victims. It reiterates warnings and concerns made in July by the US State Department in its annual Trafficking in People (TIP) report.
While the TIP report noted “overall increasing efforts” to tackle human trafficking it concluded Ireland was not meeting even minimum standards. Greta notes trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour and forced participation in crime thrives across the globe but the number of victims being identified by gardaí has been falling steadily – from 103 in 2017 to just 44 last year. Investigations into human trafficking have decreased and the number of prosecutions is “very low” it says.
TIP said there were “systemic deficiencies” in victim identification, referral, and assistance while services for victims were inadequate. There was a failure to “uniformly screen for trafficking in vulnerable populations, like sea-fishers, before referring them to immigration authorities for deportation, even when victims self-identified”.
Trafficking in humans is among the most heinous, and well organised, abuse of human rights. It thrives on the fear and vulnerability of its victims, and weak responses from those with capacity to tackle it. As a society that trumpets its record on human rights abroad, it is not good enough that Ireland fails to provide sufficient labour inspectors, Garda resources, trauma-trained interpreters, appropriate accommodation for victims and adequate legal resources to combat this abuse.
While welcoming improvements noted in the July report, the chief commissioner at the Human Rights and Equality Commission has said the Republic remains “one of the worst countries in Europe for our responses to trafficking”. More resources and improved mechanisms to identify victims must be a priority for any Government interested in human rights.