State makes progress but crucial gaps remain in protection of victims of human trafficking

Commission calls for equal treatment and an end to punishment of victims

The second 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 an event which saw Europe’s leading anti-trafficking figures from the Council of Europe, European Parliament, OSCE and the US Ambassador to Ireland speak about Ireland’s anti-trafficking response.

In light of the rise in technology-facilitated trafficking, speakers reaffirmed the need to tackle this trend by targeting demand, using technological investigation tools, law reform, and increased prevention and detection methods.

In reviewing the national efforts over 2022, the Commission has worked with many practitioners, State bodies and organisations across Ireland. This report is survivor-informed and the methodology is grounded in the human rights principle of participation. Our evaluation highlights examples of progress as well as outstanding issues.

The Commission strongly welcomes the steps to establish a statutory National Referral Mechanism – a ‘first-of-its kind’ in Europe for including specialist NGOs as ‘Trusted Partners’. This is a wide-ranging piece of legislation with significant potential. We are particularly pleased to see many of the recommendations we presented to the Joint Committee on Justice last December included, especially the inclusion of an appeals process for identification of victims. These recommendations were presented during the debate on the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2022.

Traffickers often use the threat of prosecution as a means of control, as victims are afraid to come forward. A key Commission recommendation is that a statutory protection from prosecution for victims of human trafficking be included in the new Bill where a person has committed a crime as a direct consequence of them being trafficked.

We continue to call for considerably more action to accommodate victims of trafficking in safe, appropriate and gender-specific accommodation, separate from Direct Provision. The Commission calls for a clear human trafficking assistance system, with equality of services regardless of a victim’s nationality or existing international protection claim. Human Trafficking Immigration assistance should be treated as an essential service to victims who are third-country nationals and who require it in order to access support in the State.

Another key recommendation is that the new DSGBV Agency, once established, should be responsible for the overseeing of the specialist shelter for victims of trafficking, and that resources are provided to meet the needs of victims of trafficking, including the provision of spaces for women with children in Domestic Abuse shelters for emergency periods.


IHREC Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“Trafficking in human beings is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It profits from the exploitation of vulnerable people and deprives them of their most basic human rights. Trafficking often targets people living in poverty, or those fleeing situations of armed conflict or persecution, particularly migrant women and girls.

 “People trafficking can come in many guises, so we must work to expand our understanding and legal definition of trafficking to include novel forms of exploitation.

 “Specific to Ireland, the increased use of technology has facilitated the expansion of the indoor commercial sex trade, including via sex trafficking. The State must raise public awareness of these crimes, with the development of national campaigns targeted at demand.”

Other Commission recommendations include:

On safe and appropriate accommodation:

  • That the Department of Children, Education, Disability, Integration and Youth should treat the accommodation of victims of trafficking as an issue of utmost priority within the process to end Direct Provision, to ensure that victims of trafficking no longer reside under such arrangements.
  • That the State strongly considers relieving the IPAS of the duty to provide accommodation services to all victims of trafficking (who are less than 1% of residents), and until then should review its capacity and devise a better strategy for appropriately accommodating victims of trafficking.

On technology:

  • That a National Strategy/Forum on Technology and Human Trafficking is developed.
  • That the State develops extensive public awareness and educational programmes targeting young people, in particular to prevent the risk of grooming of girls on social platforms and to discourage young men from becoming potential buyers.
  • That pornography and escort websites as well as other legal entities in the online space, should be monitored and regulated in a way that eliminates risk of trafficking and human rights abuses.

On labour exploitation:

  • That the State opts into the EU Employer Sanctions Directive and that any proposals for a seasonal work permit align with the EU standards or that the introduction of such permit is discontinued altogether.
  • That a standalone offence is introduced in Irish law for holding a person in slavery, servitude or forced or compulsory labour.

On children:

  • That the State works with An Garda Síochána and Tusla to develop a methodology for collecting uniform and reliable data on the scale and different forms of exploitation of children, in line with the recent recommendations of the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children.
  • That human trafficking is included in the Child First Guidelines to ensure that those responsible for the care of children have the necessary understanding of trafficking


Notes for Editors:

The second National Anti-Trafficking Report of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as Ireland’s National Rapporteur on Human Trafficking can be accessed at

Trafficking in Human Beings in Ireland: Second Evaluation of the Implementation of the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive

See factsheets, contained within the report (Appendix 4 Data), that may be of use to media:

Factsheet 1. Trends in Human Trafficking 2013 – 2022

Factsheet 2. Official Data at a Glance in 2022

Factsheet 3. NGO Data at a Glance in 2022

Factsheet 4. Comprehensive Data Table 2013-2022

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager, |01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760 |
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