The identification and protection of victims of human trafficking, and especially child victims of trafficking, is a key priority of my Department's anti-trafficking strategy and of efforts by An Garda Síochána to combat trafficking and crimes against children.
Ireland continues to have a relatively low level of child victims in comparison to other jurisdictions. Of the 64 victims of human trafficking identified by An Garda Síochána in 2018, five were minors, or slightly less than 8% of the total. This compares to an average child trafficking rate of 23% across the EU.
It is important to distinguish between human trafficking involving children, and offences under section 3(2) of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 (as amended by the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008), which criminalises the sexual exploitation of a child. Historically, the overwhelming majority of child victims of offences under trafficking legislation included in Irish statistics are Irish child victims of sexual exploitation, usually carried out for personal gratification rather than commercial gain, and often by someone known to the child. Since 2017 these crimes have been excluded from Ireland's reporting on human trafficking, since they fall outside the internationally agreed definition of trafficking. They continue to be a priority for investigation and prosecution.
While there have been cases of commercial sexual exploitation involving children, both EEA and non-EEA nationals, these cases are rare. As with all crimes, members of An Garda Síochána are vigilant in their efforts to combat the crime of human trafficking and especially the trafficking of children.
Ireland has an ongoing programme of actions to combat and raise awareness of the matter. Earlier this month at Dublin Airport, the Border Management Unit of my Department ran a week of action against child trafficking in as part of an EU-wide initiative by Europol.