Human trafficking and Irish society


Ireland is falling short in the fight against human trafficking, writes Aoife Byrne in the May Gazette.

A lucrative crime

One of the most lucrative crimes in the world is the slave trade, or trafficking in human beings, with illegal profits from forced labour amounting to €150.2 billion per annum. Trafficking often starts with an attractive offer of a well-paid job in another country, on the internet or through a recruitment agency.

Instead, what faces the trafficked person is forced labour or servitude, including domestic work, construction, hotel work, agriculture and the fishing industry and, more sinisterly, prostitution, forced marriage, organ removal, or other criminality.

Who is trafficked?

The average age of a trafficked person is 25, with 63% of presumed victims being female. Groups at particular risk of human trafficking include victims of domestic violence, undocumented migrants, unaccompanied children in transit between different countries, and groups subjected to ethnic discrimination.

The largest single case of potential human trafficking in Ireland was detected in 2016, when 23 Romanian males were found living together in very cramped conditions at a waste recycling plant in Meath, with no access to their wages.

Low reporting

The Trafficking in Human Beings in Ireland Annual Report 2016, published by the Department of Justice and Equality, acknowledges the relatively low number of victims of human trafficking being reported each year. Trafficked persons may be reluctant to disclose themselves to the relevant authorities for fear of repercussions and threats from the trafficker, as well as distrust of authority. It is only on identification of a person as a ‘presumed trafficked’ that they may avail of rights.

Aoife Byrne is a data protection solicitor with Spearline Risk and Compliance, and a member of the Gazette editorial board. Writing in the May Gazette, she argues that Ireland needs to do more to identify, protect and compensate victims of trafficking.

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