These include how technology is facilitating trafficking, the increase in labour exploitation, and the impact of the war in Ukraine.
Combatting this increased use of technology must necessarily involve corporate partners alongside State structures and the wider public, IHREC states.
EU consultations on amending the directive have raised the need to include novel forms of exploitation, such as forced marriages, illegal adoption, and related phenomena.
The need for strengthened penalties for private users of services from trafficked victims, as well as mandatory penalties against legal entities implicated in human trafficking, are also in view.
The publication of the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Trafficking) Bill establishes an essential new National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the report points out.
IHREC states that it will continue to advocate for the equal treatment of victims, regardless of their nationality, immigration circumstances or international-protection claims.
Distinct legal frameworks
It calls for an end to the conflation between two distinct legal frameworks: international protection; and human trafficking.
Sinéad Gibney (chief commissioner) said: “Trafficking in human beings is a gross human-rights violation and a crime generating high returns that fuel organised criminal activities.
“Trafficking is highly gendered and highly racialised, and affects migrant women and girls disproportionally. Trafficking often targets people living in poverty, or those fleeing situations of armed conflict or persecution,” she said.
Overall, more women (67%) fall victims of human trafficking than men (33%).
Multi-annual data shows that trafficking for sexual exploitation (55%) is the most common form of exploitation.
This is followed by trafficking for labour exploitation (38%) and trafficking for criminal activities (6%).
In 2022, trafficking for criminal activities ceased its declining trend and re-emerged with two new cases, both cases pertaining to exploitation in “grow houses”.
In 2022, for the first time, a suspected trafficking for organ removal was recorded.
Trafficking for labour exploitation affects more men (60%).
Africa is the prevalent source region for victims of trafficking in Ireland, the report states.
Asia and countries from the European Economic Area are also notable regions of origin of victims.
Some trafficking of Irish nationals has also been identified, and children are 8% of all victims in Ireland, less than the EU average (23%).
More girls are trafficked than boys – 9% and 5%, respectively.
In 2022, five child victims were identified as suspected victims of trafficking, most for sexual exploitation.
The report identifies legislative gaps, such as the continued confusion about the classification of child sexual exploitation, the lack of statutory protection from prosecution of victims, and the continued exclusion of sexual-exploitation victims from the criminal-justice protections’ measures for victims of sexual violence.
Despite increased investigations, there were no successful trafficking convictions in 2022.
The report also finds that traffickers are using technology and the internet to recruit victims, advertise services, communicate with clients, and co-ordinate their operations.
This presents a significant challenge to law-enforcement agencies, governments, and NGOs, it states.
“Multiple actors are implicated in this criminal distribution chain, including recruiters, pimps, prostitution agencies, and websites advertising the ‘products’ to the consumers, who are profiting from the sexual exploitation of others,” the report states.
Technology has also facilitated the expansion of the indoor commercial sex trade, including via sex trafficking, and has allowed a variety of profiteers to co-operate in the chain of distribution.
The report calls for increased specialist knowledge and resourcing of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau to tackle organised crime in the sex trade.
Ireland’s unique position as EU host of social-media giants should be used to enforce minimum standards to protect its users against exploitation, the report states.
The report also analyses the terms ‘forced labour’, ‘slavery’, ‘servitude’ and ‘trafficking for labour exploitation’ in the Irish judicial and administrative systems.
It states that the lack of slavery, servitude and forced labour offences puts pressure on the human-trafficking assistance and identification system as the sole avenue for support of the exploited.
Nail, hair and beauty salons, agriculture, the hospitality industry, fishing industry and domestic work are the fields prominent in labour exploitation.
The report calls for an opt-in to the EU Employers Sanctions Directive, and for the abandonment of the plans for a domestic version of a seasonal permit.
It says that the State should follow international good practice and introduce a “migrant exploitation protection visa” to enable migrant victims to leave exploitative situations without delay.