Ireland Continues to Fall Short in Identifying Victims of Human Trafficking, Evaluation Report Shows

Commission exercised amicus function in ‘P Case’ focused on protection regime

The Council of Europe report on Ireland’s action against trafficking in human beings, has pointed to continued State failings in actions to identify and sufficiently protect trafficking victims in Ireland. Ireland’s compliance with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings has been  assessed for the second time.

The Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking (GRETA) Evaluation Report  highlights crucial gaps in Ireland’s protections for victims of trafficking in human beings.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’), used its statutory legal powers as Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution, to highlight human trafficking issues in the significant ‘P Case’ of a Vietnamese woman arrested in Ireland, has warned that victims of trafficking may  continue to go unidentified and unaided, and traffickers may continue to act with impunity.

The Commission raised key concerns in December 2016, when meeting with GRETA over how victims of trafficking are identified, protected and supported. These same concerns have now been reflected in the Council of Europe report, which highlights how the numbers of presumed victims of trafficking reported to or detected by An Garda Síochána ‘do not reflect the real scale of the phenomenon of human trafficking in Ireland, due to difficulties in the identification of victims of trafficking’ (Para 13).

The Commission submitted to GRETA that reform of the system for the early and proactive identification of victims of trafficking in human beings is overdue. GRETA in its report advocates a formalisation of the identification process with detailed recommendations on the urgent steps required to be taken by the State (Para 126).

While the GRETA report signals progress made by the State in a number of areas, including  enactment of the International Protection Act 2015, and the establishment of the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, a number of concerns raised by the Commission to GRETA have now been further reflected in Second Evaluation Round Report. GRETA has drawn renewed attention to areas which it had signalled for action in its First Evaluation Round in 2013.  Issues raised include:

Progress on the State’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Ireland where GRETA questions the allocation of responsibility for actions, the budget allocation and independent and effective monitoring of the Plan’s implementation. (Paras 27-31)

Rules on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking suspected of involvement in criminal activity – GRETA states that in the absence of clear rules there is an ongoing risk that victims may be treated differently depending on the prosecutor in charge of the case. The criminalisation of victims discourages victims from coming forward, which impacts upon the State’s positive duty to investigate and prosecute those responsible for trafficking offences. (Para 205)

The need for a dedicated shelter for victims of trafficking in human beings –GRETA’s call to establish a pilot specialised shelter with dedicated trained personnel (Paras 127-142) is welcomed by the Commission which has drawn attention to the inappropriate accommodation of victims in centres of direct provision.

Obstacles remain to persons seeking redress – GRETA urges the State to ensure that avenues are open to victims of trafficking to access compensation. (Paras 174-183)

Demand for services provided through labour exploitation should be discouraged – GRETA has recommended that the State consider as a criminal offence the use of services which are the object of labour exploitation. (Paras 62-79) The Commission has stated that the State’s approach must also give further attention to supply chains and procurement practices.

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:

“Without the appropriate State procedures and protections in place, to ensure early identification of victims of trafficking they cannot get the vital protection, support and advice they need.

The Commission was granted liberty to appear as amicus curiae in the ‘P case’  and drew the attention of the court to the human rights standards that relate to trafficking in human beings as set out in the Constitution, EU law, UN Conventions and the Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking. This report however points to a continuing deficit in the protection of, and assistance provided to victims of trafficking in human beings, together with shortcomings in the investigation and prosecution of offenders, which need to be further addressed.”

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

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Editor’s Note

The full report of the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking (GRETA) is available at the following link:

https://rm.coe.int/greta-2017-28-fgr-irl-en/168074b426

The full submission made by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to GRETA ahead of their December 2016 Country visit to Ireland is available at the following link:

 https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2016/12/IHREC-Submission-to-GRETA-2016.pdf

 

The ‘P Case’

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (’the Commission’) appeared before the High Court as amicus curiae (friend of the Court) in the judicial review proceedings entitled P. v. Chief Superintendent of the Garda National Immigration Bureau & Ors [2015] IEHC 222.

The case concerned a Vietnamese woman who was discovered by the Gardaí locked in a cannabis “grow house” and who was charged with drugs offences and spent two and a half years in custody. The woman claimed she was a victim of trafficking and that the failure of the Garda to recognise this deprived her of her right to avail of the protection regime for such victims.

The Commission’s submissions in the case questioned the adequacy of the protection regime for persons who claim to be victims of human trafficking and, in particular, the administrative scheme for the identification of such victims, and whether it met relevant human rights standards. The Court found that the State’s administrative scheme for the recognition and protection of victims of human trafficking was inadequate to meet its obligations under EU law aimed at combatting trafficking in human beings.

The 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.