Ireland Fails to meet ‘Minimum Standards for the Elimination of Trafficking’ and is Kept on US Government Tier 2 Watchlist

National Rapporteur on Trafficking of Human Beings Responds to US State Department’s 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission  (“The Commission”) has responded with concern to the US State Departments 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, published today, which confirms that Ireland is to remain for the second year running on its ‘watchlist’ due to the State’s inadequate response in tackling trafficking of human beings. In 2020 only one other EU Member State, Romania was placed on this Tier 2 Watch list.

The US report says of Ireland “The Government of Ireland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.”

The annual evaluation goes on to say: “The government investigated and prosecuted fewer suspected traffickers, did not prosecute any labor traffickers, and victim identification decreased for the fourth year in a row. The government continued to have systemic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance, and lacked specialized accommodation and adequate services for victims. Therefore Ireland remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the second consecutive year”

The Commission in both its capacity as Ireland’s Independent National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings and as Ireland’s National Human Rights and Equality Body has cited the need for a new national action plan with clear commitments regarding gender-specific accommodation for victims.

The Commission notes and acknowledges the Department of Justice’s announcement in May of plans for a new national referral mechanism that will make it easier for victims of human trafficking to be identified. This could be a significant step in addressing core shortcomings in Ireland’s response to eliminating trafficking. The Commission also notes recent measures to permit convictions of potential victims of human trafficking to be retrospectively expunged.

Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission:

“While the Commission acknowledges some recent positive commitments by the State that will make headway in addressing crucial gaps for protection of victims, the plans are at proposal stage and not a reality for victims of trafficking in Ireland today.

“The gaps and failings in treatment and protection of victims of trafficking that led Ireland to be positioned at Tier 2 status 12 months ago remain largely outstanding. Most of the major issues, such as those pertaining to victim identification, protection and non-prosecution, are yet to be addressed.

“Ireland’s second year on the ‘watchlist’ must act as a serious wake-up call for the State to act more decisively in combatting trafficking. While there have been some positive efforts, including appointment of the Commission as rapporteur, and in recent weeks the first trafficking conviction since 2013, the reality today is that Ireland continues to fall below minimum standards compared to other developed nations.

“This US Government assessment of Ireland’s progress, and their decision to effectively rank Ireland as a State with an inadequate human trafficking response, underpins the urgent need for reform and improvement.”


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Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

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Notes to editor:

The full US State Department Report is available at the following link:

The National Rapporteur Role

Article 19 of the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive introduces a legally binding requirement for Member States to establish National Rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms:

‘Member States shall take the necessary measures to establish national rapporteurs or equivalent mechanisms. The tasks of such mechanisms shall include the carrying out of assessments of trends in trafficking in human beings, the measuring of results of anti-trafficking actions, including the gathering of statistics in close cooperation with relevant civil society organisations active in this field, and reporting.’

Article 20 requires States to transmit the information referred to in Article 19 to the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, in order to inform their contribution to the reporting carried out by the Commission every two years on the progress made in the fight against trafficking.

Independent Reports of State action will be prepared by the Commission to align with international monitoring in this area. It is expected that reporting by the Commission will provide a strong and credible baseline for external evaluations. The National Rapporteur will also contribute the development of the research and evidence base required to underpin effective monitoring and policy development.

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.