935. Deputy Holly Cairns asked the Minister for Justice if she will provide a response to the Republic of Ireland being classified as Tier 2 Watchlist of the Trafficking in Persons Report of the United States of America Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report June 2021. [42793/21]


Minister of State at the Department of Justice (Deputy Hildegarde Naughton): Human trafficking is a heinous crime based on deception and exploitation of vulnerable people. Combatting it is, and will continue to be, a priority for this Government and over the past year we have introduced significant measures to combat trafficking, to create a more victim-centred approach to identifying and supporting victims and to raise awareness and provide training.
While it was very disappointing that the US State Department did not acknowledge the significant progress made by Ireland over the past 12 months as sufficient to upgrade our ranking in the latest ‘Trafficking in Persons’ Report, I am confident that the work we are doing should be reflected in the next TiPs report and that Ireland’s ranking should be upgraded accordingly.
I note that a number of key areas identified in the latest TiPs Report reflect the ongoing work that is, in some cases, already well-advanced, including:
- The recent approval by Government to revise the National Referral Mechanism to make it easier for victims of trafficking to come forward, be identified and access advice, accommodation and support;
- The drafting of a new National Action Plan on Human Trafficking;
- The development of training, through NGOs, targeting front line staff in industries such as hospitality, airline and shipping who may come into contact with trafficked persons;
- The work being undertaken to provide dedicated accommodation for female victims of sexual exploitation;
- The improvements being made to the Criminal Justice System to support victims through the implementation of Supporting A Victims Journey;
- The running of a new awareness raising campaign in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to build on the success of previous campaigns:
- An increase in funding for supporting victims of crime generally and increased funding dedicated specifically to supporting victims of trafficking.
The latest report also highlighted that at the time of drafting there were no convictions for Human Trafficking in Ireland. In this regard it is important to highlight the significance of the recent convictions for human trafficking handed down by the Courts and to acknowledge the dedication of An Garda Síochána in investigating and tackling this hideous crime.
It was concerning that one of the factors given weight in this latest report was the continued reliance on an assessment made in an earlier TiPs report in relation to the fishing industry. This assessment was fully investigated by An Garda Síochána and no evidence was found to support the allegations of widespread human trafficking in the fishing industry. It is unclear why the State Department chose to place weight on one voice and not to take account of the balance of stakeholder assessment – including assessment by NGOs active in Ireland in tackling human trafficking – that these accusations are without foundation.
The allegations in that regard should be assessed also in the light of the High Court judgement in the case International Transport Workers' Federation v the Minister for Justice and Equality [2018 No. 5398 P] which referred, in refusing an application for an injunction on behalf of the International Transport Federation, inter alia, to 
 'the extent of reliance by the plaintiff on speculation and the reports of others without applying due process like procedures to those accounts'. 
As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland has strong separation of powers and the courts are independent of Government. A High Court judgment cannot be dismissed as an expression of opinion amongst potentially many others, but – unless overturned on appeal – is a conclusive finding of law or fact. 
I am hopeful that the State Department will look at this particular issue more objectively when assessing Ireland's ranking for the next TiPs Report. Question No. 936 answered with Question No. 900.