Ireland is fully committed to addressing the challenges of human trafficking under Irish and EU legislation and through the principal international conventions and we are active nationally and internationally to do so.
With regard to international treaties, Ireland has ratified the principal international Human Trafficking treaties:
- The Palermo Protocol (2000) to the UN Convention against Organised Crime
- The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (2005).
As the Deputy may be aware, the EU Anti Trafficking Directive (2011/36/EU) and in Ireland, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013 are the relevant legislative measures.
In February this year, Ireland ratified the ILO Forced Labour Protocol, which reinforces the international legal framework for combating all forms of forced labour, including trafficking in persons. This initiative, by my colleague the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, puts Ireland among the group known as “50 for Freedom”, which stems from an ILO initiative to encourage member countries to ratify the Protocol by the end of 2019.
Domestically, the Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking was launched in 2016. The Action Plan involves a victim-centred and human rights based approach with the ultimate aims of preventing human trafficking, ensuring an effective criminal justice response and delivery of supports to victims.
An Garda Síochána has also committed significant resources to the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking in Ireland. A specialised Garda Unit, the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit (HTICU), has been has been in place since 2009 to conduct investigations into human trafficking and provide advice, support and where necessary, operational assistance to investigations at district level. An Garda Síochána is also active in relation to trafficking gangs through work targeting organised crime - targeting their finances, their use of the internet and by working closely with other jurisdictions.
A number of State bodies also provide care and practical support to victims including the HSE, the Legal Aid Board, the Immigration Service and Tusla. My Department also provides funding to several NGOs for their work to provide support to victims of trafficking.
The Deputy may also wish to note that action is also being taken to raise public awareness in Ireland and help members of the public identify the signs of human trafficking. More information is available on the “Blue Blindfold” website: http://www.blueblindfold.gov.ie, maintained by my Department.
With regard to the report referred to by the Deputy, I note that the US State Department downgraded Ireland from a Tier 1 to a Tier 2 ranking in its 2018 annual Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) Report. Ireland is among 14 EU and EEA States which the US State Department considers as Tier 2. The other relevant states are: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
My Department continues to work closely with all relevant agencies in terms of following up on the recommendations outlined in the report.
As set out in the Annual Report of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of the Department of Justice and Equality, there were 64 recorded incidents of human trafficking in Ireland in 2018. Of this total, 13 are recorded as having occurred outside the jurisdiction and 51 are recorded as having occurred within the jurisdiction. I am informed An Garda Síochána continues to vigorously pursue a number of cases where action was initiated prior to 2018, and have commenced action in a number of new cases.