The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has called for Ireland to introduce a process to quickly identify victims of human trafficking.
It said this was essential to avoid these victims being criminalised, and to ensure that they were given early access to necessary support services.
In an update to the EU on Ireland’s response to the issue, the commission said the State was “falling down” on ensuring the early identification of victims of human trafficking.
IHREC called for a national identification referral process to be put in place, and for the Health Service Executive (HSE) to embrace its “crucial role”.
Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney (pictured) says IHREC has consistently warned that victims of trafficking will continue to go unidentified and unaided, and traffickers will continue to act with impunity, without significant State action.
The rights body made its call ahead of a meeting today (7 May) with the EU Network of National Rapporteurs on Trafficking in Human Beings.
IHREC’s report to the EU also calls for “urgent improvement” in the provision of gender-specific shelters.
The body says trafficking for sexual purposes is the main type of exploitation in Ireland, adding that this is proving resilient to the pandemic.
According to the commission, this type of exploitation in Ireland is a cyber-operated activity based on internet advertising through websites registered outside of the jurisdiction.
IHREC was designated in October 2020 as Ireland’s Independent National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings under article 19 of the EU’s Anti-Trafficking Directive.
As part of its role, it publishes monitoring reports and thematic reports evaluating Ireland’s overall performance against the State’s international obligations. The commission has set up a new unit, headed by anti-trafficking expert Dr Nusha Yonkova, to carry out this work.