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Campaign against human slavery steps up

18 Oct 2019 / human rights Print

Campaign against human slavery steps up

EU Anti-Trafficking Day is being marked today with a series of awareness-raising events.

The events are being organised by the Department of Justice and Equality, together with MECPATHS (an NGO collaborating with the hospitality sector in Ireland) to raise awareness around child trafficking.

MECPATHS works to empower hotel management and staff to identify vulnerable children in order to help combat the crime of child trafficking.

And an event in Cork this evening will commemorate the visit of Frederick Douglass to the city in October 1845.

Social reformer

Douglass (pictured), who escaped slavery, was an American anti-slavery campaigner, social reformer, orator and a powerful advocate for society’s most vulnerable.

The courthouse on Washington Street, where he delivered a speech during his visit to Ireland in 1845, is the venue for today’s events, which include a narration of his original speech and a letter of encomium from President Michael D Higgins.

Speakers include Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer, Mary Crilly (Cork Against Human Trafficking), Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll, JP O’ Sullivan (MECPATHS) and Kevin Hyland OBE. 

In 2018, Kevin Hyland was elected to the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA). In 2014, he was appointed as the Britain’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. In 2015, he received an OBE for "services to combating human trafficking".

Police officer

Previously, Hyland had a 30-year career as a police officer, and was formerly head of the London Metropolitan Police human trafficking unit.

The event coincides with the launch of the first EU-wide prevention campaign on trafficking in human beings, developed by the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN).

Minister of State David Stanton said: “While slavery is sometimes considered in the historical perspective only, the terrible truth is that modern-day slavery and human trafficking remain a reality for all too many people around the globe.


“There is an onus on all of us to know the signs of human trafficking, and to do what we can to eliminate this abhorrent practice.

“I very much welcome the EUCPN’s prevention campaign, which along with the existing Blue Blindfold campaign, will help draw attention to this incredibly important issue, and teach people how to recognise the signs of trafficking.”

MECPATHS representative JP O’Sullivan says: “As a global phenomenon which is unfortunately also reflected in Ireland, human trafficking continues to affect countless adults and children who are held in modern-day slavery.

“Human trafficking will persist unless we all take action to tackle it. We all have a duty to act.” 

In 2018, there were over 16,000 victims of trafficking identified in Europe.

In Ireland, 8% of trafficking victims identified were children.


EU Anti-Human Trafficking Day has taken place every year since 2007. The campaign goals are to step up the fight against this crime by informing (potential) victims that they could be, or become a victim of trafficking, telling victims where they can find help, protection and information, and letting them know that they have EU-wide rights.

Iarnrod Éireann has agreed to display anti-trafficking posters in Connolly, Tara Street and Pearse Street train stations in Dublin, while Bus Éireann is displaying posters in the main bus stations nationwide.

The immigration services will be displaying posters in the Burgh Quay registration office in Dublin, and in the International Protection office.

Social media

The Border Management Unit at Dublin Airport will display the posters, and legal-aid offices will support the campaign on social media.

The Blue Blindfold campaign and logo were launched in December 2007 by the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC). The concept of the Blue Blindfold is 'Don't close your eyes' to human trafficking.

The Blue Blindfold represents the risk of people having their eyes closed, and not being aware of the crime that may be going on around them. The logo has become an internationally recognised symbol of help for victims.



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