Minister McEntee welcomes Ireland’s ranking upgrade in latest ‘Trafficking in Persons’ Report

 

 

19 July 2022

 

The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, today noted Ireland’s upgrading in the ‘Trafficking in Persons’ (TiPs) Report 2022, and welcomed the significant progress An Garda Síochána and her Department have made to combat human trafficking and support victims.  This recent progress has been acknowledged and reflected in the report from the US State Department which saw Ireland’s ranking upgraded from the Tier 2 watch-list.

 

Significant developments in 2021 taken into account by the US State Department when assessing Ireland include:

 

 

In addition, Minister McEntee noted that work being advanced by her Department over the past 12 months progressing the revised NRM and the new Action Plan on Human Trafficking, and which is nearing completion, will make a substantial difference to the identification and protection of human trafficking victims in Ireland.  These reforms are reflected in key recommendations made in the TiPs Report.

 

Minister McEntee said,

 

“Human trafficking is an exploitive crime that preys on the vulnerable. I have been clear that there is no place for it in our society.

 

“We know vulnerable people are trafficked into Ireland for exploitation reasons, including sexual exploitation, forced labour and forced criminality.

 

“We are confident that the victim-centred policy approach we are taking will, most importantly, encourage more victims to come forward and get help and support, but this in turn, should help us gather the information and evidence needed to strengthen prosecutions and convictions.

 

“There are two further areas in particular that my officials are progressing, and which we hope to see reflected in the next TiPs rating.

 

“The first is work ongoing in relation to a proposed new National Referral Mechanism. Next week I will seek Government approval to publish the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2022, which, among other things will put a revised NRM on a statutory footing. This will also provide a formal role for civil society groups that support victims to be part of the formal identification process”.

 

“This new approach will make it easier for victims of trafficking to come forward, be identified and access advice, accommodation and support. 

 

“Work is also advancing on the development of a new National Action Plan on Human Trafficking. Following a further round of stakeholder consultations, the plan will be finalised and submitted to Government for approval in the autumn.”

 

In addition to engaging with the TiPs process, Ireland continues to work actively with all our partners in multilateral international organisations who are active in tackling human trafficking, including the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking (GRETA), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the UN and the European Union. These organisations periodically conduct country visits and make recommendation for areas of improvement.

 

Furthermore, the enactment of the legislation to establish the revised NRM on a statutory footing and the implementation of the draft commitments for action in the Action Plan on Human Trafficking should help improve Ireland’s ranking further in future reports.

 

The TiPs Report is the US Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking and it rates States in a three-tier system based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking.

 

Ireland was downgraded to Tier 2 watch list in 2020, and has now been upgraded to Tier 2 with the US State Department noting the government is “making significant efforts” in this area.

 

Among the areas highlighted are the increased number of convictions secured, the increased number of potential trafficking victims identified during inspections, and work on the expungement of convictions for selling sex, many of which may have involved victims of trafficking.

 

The Minister notes the references to the fishing industry in the 2022 report.  All allegations of human trafficking in the industry are fully investigated by An Garda Síochána and files submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions.  AGS report that the DPP  has so far decided not to prosecute in all cases, deeming the necessary threshold of evidence to show human trafficking – as distinct from exploitative work practices - has not been met.

 

The Minister notes with concern the statement in the 2022 TIPs report that ‘Traffickers subject Irish children to sex trafficking within the country’. The Minister is not aware of any evidence of this, either from the report or otherwise, but would point out that under Children First legislation and guidance Ireland has:

 

 

Any suspicions of child trafficking for sexual abuse – including any evidence that comes to the attention of any voluntary organisation - should be reported immediately to An Garda Síochána.

 

Minister McEntee added,

 

“We are united in our commitment to supporting victims, and to prosecuting those who take advantage and profit from their misery. 

 

“The mass movement of people across Europe over the past four months has served only to concentrate minds and deepen our resolve to help.

 

“Ireland is determined to play its full part in providing safe refuge for the people fleeing from Ukraine and the Irish people have afforded a warm welcome to more than 40,000 people so far.

 

“However, we are also mindful that some will view it as an opportunity to deceive and exploit.

 

“The Zero Tolerance strategy, the third national strategy on domestic, sexual and gender-based violence which I launched last month contains an action to identify linkages between the implementation plan accompanying the Strategy, and the National Action Plan on human trafficking, as well as ensuring actions to prevent prostitution and combat trafficking for sexual exploitation are addressed in an integrated manner.”

 

 

 

 

 

ENDS/…

 

Notes for editors

 

National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

A revised National Referral Mechanism will make a significant difference to Ireland’s capacity to identify and support harder-to-reach human trafficking victims.

 

It will allow all agencies, both State and civil society, to co-operate, identify and share information about potential victims and facilitate their access to advice, accommodation and support.

 

Currently, when suspected victims of human trafficking are encountered by, or referred to, An Garda Síochána, they are provided with a wide range of services by both the Government and NGOs through the NRM.

 

Many victims – for very understandable reasons – will not approach the police, but may be much more comfortable approaching a different state body, or an NGO.

 

The new approach acknowledges other state bodies and NGOs have a role in identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to the NRM.

 

Officials in the Department of Justice have finalised heads of a bill to put the NRM framework on a legislative footing which will go to Government for approval shortly, after which drafting of the Bill can commence. It is hoped that the Billwill be published by the end of the year.

 

In addition, an interdepartmental group had been established to work on the operational protocols which will support the framework and outline how the various agencies will interact within the new Framework.

 

A very significant innovation in the NRM will be a formal role for selected NGOs working with victims as trusted partners within the new framework, able to refer victims to the NRM. 

 

This will allow an alternative and trusted pathway to enter the NRM, aside from State agencies. 

 

National Action Plan

The development of a new National Action Plan on human trafficking is also taking place.

 

This whole of Government plan sets out how the multi-agency work to combat this criminal activity will be taken forward.

 

A consultant produced a short and focused analysis of the current position in relation to human trafficking in Ireland which includes a research review, a synopsis of the extent of trafficking in Ireland and a summary of issues to address.

 

The Department of Justice is now engaged with a working group to draft the new National Action Plan high-level goals and outcomes. A draft Action Plan has been submitted for the Minister’s consideration and further discussions will take place shortly. 

 

Following a further round of stakeholder consultations the plan will be finalised and submitted to Government for approval in Q3 2022.