Trafficking in Persons Report 2015 - Country Narratives - Ireland


Ireland is a destination and source country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor—including forced criminal activity. Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. During the reporting period, Irish law enforcement reported an increase in suspected victims of forced labor, forced criminal activity, and forced begging from Eastern Europe, particularly Romania, as well as an increase in potential sex trafficking victims from Brazil. Authorities reported a decrease in suspected victims from Nigeria. Irish children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Victims of forced labor have been identified in domestic service, the restaurant industry, and car washing services. NGOs and press reports indicate Vietnamese and Chinese men prosecuted and sentenced for cannabis cultivation report indicators of forced labor, such as document retention, restriction of movement, and nonpayment of wages. Some domestic workers, primarily women, employed by foreign diplomats on assignment in Ireland work under poor conditions and are at risk of labor trafficking.

The Government of Ireland fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government increased investigations of trafficking crimes and issued new guidelines aimed at preventing the exploitation of domestic workers of foreign diplomats. Authorities maintained victim identification and protection efforts and identified an increased number of suspected victims of forced criminal activity. The government, however, continued to prosecute a high number of non-trafficking crimes as trafficking cases, including child molestation cases, and convicted no sex or labor traffickers in 2014. Potential victims of forced labor in cannabis production were prosecuted and imprisoned for crimes that they may have been forced to commit.


Implement the trafficking law to ensure sex and labor traffickers are held accountable through convictions and dissuasive sentences; increase efforts to identify and protect victims of labor trafficking and forced criminality, ensuring victims are not penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; establish multi-stakeholder case reviews during the victim identification process, involving service providers and anti-trafficking law enforcement units; increase funding for and provision of specialized victim services in partnership with NGOs; offer specialized emergency accommodation and use of apartments and houses with outreach support to victims; publish the second national action plan; enable and encourage all trafficking victims to access available legal services; and amend the law to authorize asylum seekers who are also identified victims to obtain work permits.


The government sustained efforts to investigate trafficking offenses, but did not convict any labor or sex traffickers. The government prohibits all forms of trafficking through a 2008 human trafficking act, amended in 2013, which prescribes penalties up to life imprisonment; these penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law broadly defines sexual exploitation, including the sexual abuse of children, and conflates possession or creation of child pornography with human trafficking, making law enforcement statistics unreliable. Authorities introduced a bill in 2014 criminalizing the purchase of sexual services from victims.

Authorities initiated investigations of 79 new trafficking-related cases in 2014, an increase from 56 in 2013. Forty investigations did not result in the identification of trafficking victims, while the other 39 cases involved a total of 46 suspected victims. The majority of suspected victims in these cases were identified in sexual exploitation. Authorities investigated cases involving seven suspected victims of labor trafficking, four suspected victims of forced criminality, one suspected victim of forced begging, and one suspected victim of both sex and labor trafficking. Police initiated a review of 13 individuals charged with drug-related offenses for work in cannabis cultivation to establish whether they were trafficking victims. In 2014, the majority of prosecutions under the anti-trafficking act involved the sexual abuse of children as opposed to trafficking as defined under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, though authorities initiated the prosecution of one suspected trafficker for the sex trafficking of Nigerian girls. The government did not report any criminal convictions for sex trafficking or forced labor in 2014. In 2014, the High Court denied the appeal of a Chinese man previously sentenced for cannabis cultivation who contested his imprisonment on the grounds of being a trafficking victim compelled to engage in unlawful activity. While the judge found the man was kept in a condition of servitude under threats of violence, the judge found there was no evidence the man was “trafficked into the state,” a finding that appeared to place additional burdens of proof not required by the 2008 law. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentencing of government officials for alleged complicity in trafficking offenses. In 2014, authorities provided anti-trafficking training to 131 police officers and hosted a two-day anti-trafficking seminar for 120 senior police officers. Law enforcement cooperated with the governments of Romania, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands on trafficking investigations.


The government maintained victim protection efforts. Under the national referral mechanism, victims must be referred to law enforcement before shelter, health, and legal services can be provided. Authorities identified 45 suspected trafficking victims in 2014, compared with 44 in 2013. Of the 45 suspected victims, 13 were children. Fifteen suspected victims were from Romania, eight from Brazil, eight from Ireland, and the rest from Eastern Europe, Africa, and South Asia. While the majority of individuals were potential victims of sexual exploitation, seven were potentially exploited in labor trafficking, four in forced criminal activity, one in forced begging, and one in both sex and labor trafficking. Authorities did not report how many suspected victims were ultimately confirmed to be trafficking victims. Civil society organizations identified some sex trafficking victims who may have chosen not to be referred to authorities; for example, an NGO working with women in prostitution reported assisting 83 sex trafficking victims in 2013, the last year for which this data was available. NGOs lacked formal and defined roles in the victim identification process and reported delays and a lack of transparency in the process. Decisions on victim status by law enforcement could not be appealed, and NGOs reported not being offered explanations of denials.

The national referral mechanism included formal procedures guiding the provision of services. All foreign adult victims from countries outside the EU were offered lodging in the government-operated network of 34 asylum reception centers. Child victims were supported through child protection services. Irish adult victims could receive services through general social welfare and health service channels. In 2014, officials completed individual care plans for 20 suspected sex trafficking victims and 19 suspected labor trafficking victims that covered medical care, psychological care, lodging, legal assistance, and education and training. The government provided 172,000 euro ($209,000) to an NGO for assistance for sex trafficking victims and 4,000 euro ($4,870) to an NGO to assist labor trafficking victims. This level of support was similar to the prior year, but NGOs believed it was inadequate. Reception centers provided access to health services, psychological care, and vocational training. NGOs reported concerns with lack of privacy, inadequate security, and the remote locations of some of these centers and asserted the mixed gender nature of the centers was not appropriate for sex trafficking victims. Trafficking victims seeking asylum may have had to reside in asylum residence centers for two to four years while asylum processes were ongoing. The referral tracking system did not allow social workers to verify whether the full range of services for which victims were eligible had actually been provided.

The government provided identified, non-EU trafficking victims a 60-day reflection period before deciding whether to assist law enforcement, a period during which victims were prohibited from working. Two victims received reflection periods in 2014. Authorities granted 16 foreign victims six-month temporary residence permission in 2014; 13 of these victims received the permission without requiring a prior reflection period. Seven victims were offered long-term permission to remain in the country for cooperating with law enforcement. Though trafficking victims were permitted to seek legal employment while in temporary residency status, asylum seekers could not work. Six potential trafficking victims identified in 2014 had previously requested asylum in Ireland. In 2014, the employment appeals tribunal awarded 80,000 euro ($97,300) each to three Filipina domestic workers previously employed by the former ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Ireland. The women reported indicators of forced labor, including the retention of passports and severe underpayment of wages. The government offered free legal aid to all suspected trafficking victims, but not all eligible individuals used the aid; in 2014, 16 suspected victims did so. As early legal representation was not available, some victims faced challenges navigating the immigration system and lacked representation during the investigation process. NGOs continued to report that Asian victims of forced labor in cannabis production were prosecuted and convicted for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. The government reported taking steps to make police and prosecutors aware of the possible victimization of individuals involved in cannabis cultivation and appointed an NGO to provide expert advice in possible cases, but did not report identifying any such individuals as trafficking victims in 2014.


The government strengthened anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The justice ministry’s anti-human trafficking unit coordinated interagency efforts, including the high-level interagency group and give working groups. The draft second national action plan remained under review for a second year. Authorities made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex, but not for forced labor. Authorities and NGOs maintained an awareness-raising campaign on sex trafficking. NGOs advocated for an independent national rapporteur to monitor government anti-trafficking efforts. The government issued robust guidelines for the employment of domestic workers employed by foreign diplomats in Ireland to prevent their exploitation. The government provided anti-trafficking training or guidance for its diplomatic personnel. The government provided anti-trafficking to Irish defense forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.