Commission calls for gender specific accommodation for victims of trafficking and a child-specific identification procedure

The first National Anti-Trafficking Report of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) as Ireland’s National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking was published today, at a high-level event which saw Europe’s leading anti-trafficking figures from the EU, OSCE and Council of Europe speaking about the State’s anti-Trafficking response.

The recent mass displacement of people and the enduring humanitarian crises caused by the war against Ukraine has compounded the vulnerabilities that make people susceptible to trafficking. Traffickers exploit this chaos leaving women and children at a heightened risk of exploitation. This, coming on the back of the global Covid-19 pandemic, has revealed serious stress-lines in the response to date and the urgent need to tackle the evolving challenge of human trafficking, especially the increased use of digital technology in this crime.

A key Commission recommendation is the urgent completion of the process to secure a gender-specific shelter. The reality for many victims in Ireland is that when they escape trafficking, they will be placed into the Direct Provision system – a system marred with serious human rights and equality concerns. Considering the central importance of safe accommodation for the recovery of victims, the Commission sees the use of Direct Provision as substandard and contravening of the requirement for gender-specific assistance to victims. The Commission reiterates its strong recommendation for gender-specific facilities, with access to the full suite of necessary support services.

Another key recommendation of the report relates to coordination. Our national policy and coordination need urgent updating and upgrading. The proposed National Action Plan on Human Trafficking and the new National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for Identification and Assistance of Victims will both go a long way in progressing the State’s overall response but a number of measures need to be adopted to strengthen these initiatives. The Commission makes a number of detailed recommendations to this, chief amongst them:

  • The need for the new Referral Mechanism to be progressed as a matter of utmost urgency. It must be placed on a statutory footing and must apply to all
  • The need to remove any and all conditions requiring victims of trafficking to cooperate with investigations in order to receive the full range of assistance and entitlements as victims of trafficking crimes.
  • The need to delegate the central referring role to an assistance-oriented as opposed to law enforcement organisation.

It’s widely recognised that children are among the most vulnerable victims of trafficking. One of the most challenging aspects in the State’s response remains the identification of child victims. The new NRM must adopt a child-specific identification procedure that addresses the particulars of a child’s situation. This report details a number of recommendations around identification, operational responses, unconditional assistance, age assessments, data collection, and child-victim specific supports.

In 2020 the Commission was designated as Ireland’s first Independent National Rapporteur on human trafficking. Within this new function, the Commission works with the State, international partners, stakeholders, NGOs and, most importantly, survivors to ensure that Ireland not only fulfils, but exceeds its international obligations on tackling the scourge of human trafficking.

The report is survivor informed, and its methodology grounded in the human rights principles of participation. Participation of survivors of human trafficking, with their unique perspective and understanding of the system, is crucial for future policy and legislation.

Sinead Gibney, Chief Commissioner said,

“Trafficking in human beings is a gross human rights violation and a crime generating high returns that fuel organised criminal activities. Trafficking is highly gendered and highly racialised, and affects migrant women and girls disproportionally.”

“Despite public perception, Ireland is far from immune to trafficking. Year after year, the experiences of front-line responders, the accounts of victims, and the data itself show clearly that human trafficking crimes are being committed in Ireland and people are being exploited in various ways for profit.”

“We need to raise public awareness of this issue, position human trafficking policies correctly, and to synchronise our national efforts to achieve stronger impact.”

Diane Schmitt, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, European Commission said,

“Awareness raising and prevention measures taken by the Member States and at the EU level immediately after the beginning of the war in Ukraine have been crucial in reducing the risks of trafficking in human beings for people fleeing. Together with the National rapporteurs and the EU Agencies, we need to continue joining our forces in order to implement the Common Anti-Trafficking Plan.”

Dr Nusha Yonkova, Head of the Commission’s Anti Human-Trafficking Unit, said,

“This detailed report is the first of its kind in Ireland in that it measures Ireland’s action against each of the obligations of the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive.”

“This independent report will provide a strong and credible baseline for national and external analysis and will add to the development of a robust evidence base that is necessary to underpin effective policy development. It should serve as an extra tool in fighting the destructive force of human trafficking in our society.”


For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760

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Editor’s Note

The report is available at this link: 

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.