The US State Department has said that Ireland will remain on its ‘watchlist’ for human trafficking this year.
The department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report says Ireland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so. Romania is the only other EU country on the watchlist.
The Department of Justice said it was “disappointed” that what it described as the “significant progress” over the past 12 months was not seen as sufficient by the US State Department.
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) said it was concerned about the report.
“The Government investigated and prosecuted fewer suspected traffickers, did not prosecute any labour traffickers, and victim identification decreased for the fourth year in a row,” the US evaluation said.
“The Government continued to have systemic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance, and lacked specialised accommodation and adequate services for victims,” it added.
The report said that, although one trafficker was convicted under false imprisonment charges, the Government had not obtained a trafficking conviction under the anti-trafficking law since it was amended in 2013.
IHREC’s chief commissioner, Sinéad Gibney, said the report should be a “wake-up call” for the State to act decisively on the issue.
“Most of the major issues, such as those pertaining to victim identification, protection and non-prosecution, are yet to be addressed,” she said.
IHREC acknowledged, however, the Department of Justice’s announcement in May of plans for a new national referral mechanism that would make it easier for victims of human trafficking to be identified.
It said this could be “a significant step” in addressing shortcomings in Ireland’s response to eliminating trafficking.
Minister of State Hildegarde Naughton said the Government had moved forward on a number of improvements in 2020 and this year — including the drafting of a new national action plan on human trafficking.
She was also critical of references in the report to allegation of widespread human trafficking in the fishing industry, saying assessments by NGOs in Ireland had found that these accusations were “without foundation”.