The State’s human-rights watchdog has told the Council of Europe that a measure aimed at supporting victims of human trafficking needs to be implemented urgently in Ireland.
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) was approved by the Cabinet in May, but the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) says that it needs to be progressed this year.
The NRM allows the State and civil society to co-operate, share information about potential victims, identify those victims, and facilitate their access to advice, accommodation and support.
IHREC’s recommendation comes in a report, published today (18 October), on Ireland’s compliance with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
The report points to some positive progress – including Ireland’s first prosecutions for trafficking offences in June. It warns, however, that trafficking victims remain unlikely to be identified, are cut off from supports, and are often left open to further abuses.
The commission argues that the NRM needs to be applicable to all suspected trafficking victims, regardless of their nationality and immigration status.
It also warns that the accommodation of victims of trafficking needs “an urgent overhaul”, and cannot be treated as “a secondary issue” in the process of winding down the system of direct provision.
“The delayed delivery of a specialised shelter for victims of trafficking is a particularly urgent, in light of all the evidence of the gender-specific nature of trafficking to Ireland,” the report says.
IHREC says that an expert group from the Council of Europe will be travelling to Ireland later this year for detailed meetings on how the State is responding to the issue of human trafficking.
The commission's report notes that Ireland remains one of only two EU states on the US State Department’s Tier 2 watch-list for action on trafficking.
“While it’s important to acknowledge that positive steps are being taken, it’s clear that Ireland is starting from a low base in tackling human trafficking, and that, as a country, we have a long way to go,” says Sinéad Gibney (IHREC’s chief commissioner).