Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Seán Crowe has described the downgrading by the US State Department of Ireland’s efforts to combat human trafficking as “deeply embarrassing and demonstrates the lack of priority with which this issue has been tackled.
Teachta Crowe said:
“The US State Department has released their annual Trafficking in Persons Report and the news for Ireland is not good.
“This downgrading places Ireland on the third tier in the fight against human trafficking. We are the only country in Western Europe to be ranked so low and this places us in the company of Iraq and Bosnia and Herzegovina, two states who have experienced massive conflict in recent years.
“The report identifies some damning failures in the fight against human trafficking. Ireland has failed to obtain a conviction against a person for trafficking since the law was amended in 2013 and there are ‘systematic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance’. The report is critical of the fact that across three years and 1,500 inspections, not a single victim was identified.
“There are ongoing, chronic deficiencies providing assistance and protection to trafficking victims, including a lack of specialised accommodation and adequate services for victims. Repatriation of victims is also a huge problem. If someone has been smuggled into the country to work in a cannabis grow house for instance, sending them back to where they were trafficked from will only expose them to the dangers they faced previously and possibly more so, if human traffickers now consider the victim to be in their debt.
“An area singled out for particular criticism is in the fishing industry; the report states “the amended working scheme for sea fishers increased their vulnerability to trafficking’. The report alleges that Government changes managed to make the situation worse. This is an area of workers’ rights that clearly needs to be revisited and proactive amendments made to the legislation.
“The report identified that funding in key areas, such as research and enforcement, has decreased while we know from other jurisdictions that trafficking has multiplied and is on the increase.
“In a week where Ireland was elected to the UN Security Council, we are also told that our efforts to combat Human Trafficking are simply not nearly good enough. If Ireland wishes to be a champion for human rights and justice on a global stage, then we must look closer to home and ensure that victims of trafficking in Ireland are not left to the mercy of modern-day slavers. We clearly need to look again at our flawed legislation and allocate additional resources to combat the trafficking of vulnerable men, women, and children.”