My Department is fully committed to addressing the challenges of human trafficking, in all forms, under Irish and EU legislation and under the principal international conventions.
As the Deputy may be aware, the identification of victims of trafficking is a duty arising from the EU Directive 2011/36/EU and the 2005 Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, and has no statutory basis in Ireland. The identification of victims is not a question of determining who they are; it is a question of determining that they are victims of a crime and that they are consequently entitled to supports to assist them in dealing with the aftermath of the offence. The most well-defined support entitlement is that they are immune from deportation in the immediate aftermath of their discovery. As noted by the Deputy, the obligation on Ireland is also that victims are given a period of “recovery and reflection” during which they are exempt from deportation and do not have to engage with law enforcement investigating the offence. The minimum period in the convention is 30 days. I wish to confirm to the Deputy that Ireland has set the period at 60 days.
The Deputy may also wish to note that progress has been made to improve access to State supports for victims of human trafficking.
A number of State bodies provide care and practical support to victims of human trafficking, including the HSE, the International Protection Accommodation Service, the Legal Aid Board, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and Tusla. The International Organisation for Migration also provides assistance in relation to returning victims to their country of origin.
An Garda Síochána has also committed significant resources to the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking. A specialised Garda Unit, the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit (HTICU), has been established to coordinate delivery of national strategy in this area. Where an individual is identified as a suspected victim of human trafficking by HTICU they will be eligible to receive State supports and services, including immigration permission, medical care, accommodation and legal advice, through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to assist their recovery.
My Department also provides funding to several Non-Governmental Organisations for their work to provide support to victims of trafficking, and my Department is also funding several research and awareness raising programmes in this field.
I can confirm that my Department continues to work closely with the relevant parties in relation to the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) Committee and its reporting mechanism. Ireland’s last review was in 2016 and the next round will commence for Ireland in May 2020.
The Deputy may also wish to note that agreed reports of Ireland’s interaction with the Council of Europe GRETA Committee are available on the Council of Europe Website, at the following link: