Commission Highlights ‘Gaps’ in Identifying Child Victims of Trafficking

The fact that no child victims of trafficking have been identified by the State in the past two years shows ‘significant gaps’ in the States’ current identification processes, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) told the Oireachtas today.

Addressing the Joint Committee on Justice, Commission member Dr. Salome Mbugua said:

“When you consider that over the course of the last two years, there has not been a single identified child trafficking victim in Ireland – not one – it is clear there are significant gaps in our identification process”.

Ahead of its appearance before the Joint Committee, the Commission, the State’s National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, today published its Submission on Part 3 of the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2022.

Dr Mbugua noted that the current ‘elaborate’ interplay between the three systems – international protection, human trafficking and general child protection – has caused the identification of child victims to ‘grind to a standstill’.

In 32 recommendations to the Oireachtas, the Commission noted the importance of ensuring statutory protection from prosecution for victims of human trafficking, advising that the 2008 Anti-Trafficking Act be amended to include a specific statutory defence for victims of trafficking where they have committed crimes as a direct consequence of them being trafficked.

In addition, the Commission recommended that victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation be afforded the same protections as victims of rape and other sexual assault offences in criminal trials.

The Commission noted that there are no express provisions in the General Scheme to provide for gender-specific services to victims – a clear recommendation of the first National Evaluation Report – and recommended that the Bill contain access to gender-specific shelter.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“All forms of human trafficking are abhorrent, but those involving children are particularly repugnant. We see an urgent need for a separate child trafficking identification mechanism. We cannot begin to protect these vulnerable children if we cannot identify them.”

Recommendations include:

  • That the Bill include express provisions for the identification of victims who lack capacity such as children or adults with diminished capacity.
  • That the term ‘Children’s Legal Advisor’ be included and defined in the interpretations section in the Bill.
  • That the Bill contain a child-specific identification process.
  • That the findings of the First National Evaluation Report of the National Rapporteur on Human trafficking, GRETA 3rd evaluation report, the OSCE country report of 2020 are all taken into account for the development of a child-specific identification process in the Bill.
  • That entitlements to services (such as gender-specific accommodation, material assistance, medical and psychological services, free legal aid, and access to interpretation) be enshrined in the Bill.
  • That the introduction of a separate standalone offence for holding a person in slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour fully aligns Irish law with Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which requires criminalisation of slavery, servitude and forced labour.
  • That the right to separate legal representation for victims under section 4A of the Criminal Law (Rape) Act 1981 (in circumstances where an application is made to question a victim about other sexual experiences) should be extended to victims of sexual exploitation offences committed under section 4 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008.

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760
sarah.clarkin@ihrec.ie
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

IHREC’s Submission to the Oireachtas is available at: https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2022/12/Submission-on-Part-3-of-the-General-Scheme-of-the-Criminal-Justice-Sexual-Offences-and-Human-Trafficking-Bill-2022.pdf

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.

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