The Government of Ireland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so. The government made significant efforts to meet the minimum standards during the reporting period by collaborating in international investigations and increasing funding for victim services. However, these efforts were not serious and sustained compared to the efforts during the previous reporting period. The government has not obtained a trafficking conviction since the law was amended in 2013; it initiated only three prosecutions in 2017, and had chronic deficiencies in victim identification and referral. Therefore Ireland was downgraded to Tier 2.


Vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict suspected offenders of both sex and labor trafficking using the trafficking law; train law enforcement and prosecutors on developing cases without reliance on victim testimony and train law enforcement, judges, and prosecutors on a victim-centered approach; improve victim identification and referral and issue a revised referral mechanism in coordination with NGOs, offering formal identification, a recovery and reflection period, and victim services to all victims without referral from police; increase efforts to identify and protect all victims, especially of labor trafficking and forced criminality; offer specialized accommodation to victims, particularly for women and traumatized victims; adopt a legal provision to exempt victims from inappropriate penalization for crimes committed as a direct result of their trafficking; increase legal assistance for trafficking victims, including for cooperation with investigations and court proceedings; establish a national hotline to report trafficking crimes and provide victim assistance and referral; explore new possibilities for victim compensation, particularly for those involved in sex trafficking; and establish an independent national rapporteur to help identify and address gaps in anti-trafficking strategy and efforts.


The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The 2008 Human Trafficking Act, amended in 2013, criminalized sex and labor trafficking and prescribed penalties up to life imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law broadly defined sexual exploitation to include the sexual abuse of children. The Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 was enacted in March 2017; it criminalized the purchase of sexual services and prescribed more severe penalties for the purchase of sex from a person subjected to trafficking. In such cases, the burden of proof shifted to the accused, who had to prove they were unaware the victim was subjected to trafficking. The Criminal Justice Bill included measures against child grooming and included additional support and protection for victims during the criminal trial process.

Authorities initiated investigations of 115 new trafficking-related cases in 2017, compared to 90 in 2016 and 91 in 2015. Most of these cases did not involve trafficking via force, fraud, and coercion for the purpose of exploitation. Of the 115 cases, 65 involved sexual exploitation, 37 involved labor exploitation, five involved forced criminality, five involved immigration offenses, one involved organized begging, and two were uncategorized. The government prosecuted three individuals for forced labor (nine prosecutions in 2016; zero in 2015; one in 2014). There were two additional trafficking cases with six perpetrators, including one subject to a European arrest warrant, awaiting trial. There was a third case in which law enforcement charged the perpetrator with forced labor, but the perpetrator was outside the jurisdiction; prosecutors had not indicted the perpetrator. The government did not report any convictions in 2017 for sex trafficking or forced labor under the anti-trafficking act; there were no convictions under this law since it was amended in 2013. GRETA expressed concern about the inadequate criminal justice response to trafficking in Ireland and noted that failure to convict traffickers and the absence of effective sentences can contribute to impunity and undermine efforts to support victims to testify.

During the reporting period, 140 police officers participated in a three-day training course on trafficking; 240 new probationary police officers received basic trafficking awareness training; and 19 national police who worked as immigration officers at a port checkpoint and 140 immigration officers stationed at an airport received trafficking awareness training. The national police trained 230 front-line social protection officers. An additional 40 senior investigating officers and 40 detective sergeants received trafficking training. Ten workplace relations commission inspectors received training on the identification of trafficking indicators in the reporting period; inspectors referred four suspected cases to the national police. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in trafficking. Law enforcement cooperated with various foreign governments on trafficking investigations and executed two European arrest warrants. The high court ordered the extradition of one suspect.


The government maintained insufficient victim protection efforts. Authorities identified 103 suspected trafficking victims (including four child victims), compared with 95 in 2016 and 78 in 2015. Of the victims identified in 2017, 63 were exploited in sex trafficking, 35 in labor trafficking, four in forced criminality, and one in forced begging; 68 were female and 35 were male. Victims identified in 2017 in Ireland included 28 Irish, 14 individuals from Romania, 12 from Indonesia, 12 from Nigeria, and the rest from Europe, Africa, South Asia, the Near East, and South America. Fifty percent of victims were EU nationals.

Experts raised concerns about the government's inability to identify trafficking victims due to shortcomings in its identification mechanism. Formal procedures for victim identification applied only to victims lacking legal residency in Ireland, namely foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who were not asylum-seekers. EEA nationals, including Irish nationals, and asylum-seekers with pending applications were excluded from the formal identification scheme. As a result, such persons were not formally identified as suspected victims of trafficking, with implications for their access to victim services. Experts reported this practice deprived Irish and EEA nationals access to specialized assistance. The government maintained it assessed suspected victims on a "reasonable grounds" basis to allow them access to support and services, but NGOs and lawyers asserted national police required evidence beyond the "reasonable grounds" test when assessing victims. NGOs and other front-line responders did not have a formal role in the identification process; the police were the only entity with the authority to formally identify victims, which GRETA reported created a potential conflict of priorities between law enforcement efforts and victim assistance. The government reported reviewing the referral mechanism to identify areas for improvement, but did not issue a revised mechanism in 2017 as planned. The current national referral mechanism required potential victims give a formal statement to police to be formally identified as a suspected victim of trafficking. Law enforcement was required to refer victims before shelter and health services could be provided; victims unwilling to go to the police could not access assistance. Of the 103 victims identified by authorities, all were referred to services, although it was unclear how many were eligible to receive services due to Habitual Residency Condition restrictions.

The government's Reception and Integration Agency (RIA) and NGOs provided victims with health services, immigration permission, accommodation, welfare and rent allowance, police assistance, residence permits, repatriation, translation and interpretation assistance, and access to education for dependent children. There was no legally-mandated psychological assistance for victims of trafficking and the counseling services provided by NGOs was insufficient. NGOs reported a lack of specialized services to address the physical and mental health needs of victims. The government's legal aid board provided information to victims referred by police, but not legal assistance or support for investigations or trials. One government-funded NGO provided legal representation for victims. GRETA urged the government to ensure victims had early access to legal practitioners with specialized knowledge of trafficking who can represent them. The government-funded an NGO to repatriate one Irish and 12 foreign victims.

According to the government, in practice, domestic and foreign victims had equal access to all state services. Experts, however, asserted EEA foreign national victims were excluded from accessing social assistance support until they satisfied or were granted an exemption from the Habitual Residence Condition. The government reported receiving no complaints of refusals or evidence of cases where difficulties in satisfying the Condition arose for trafficking victims. There were no dedicated shelters for presumed victims of trafficking. Although the government provided accommodation arrangements for victims, NGOs stated the mixed-gender housing in the direct provision system, a system originally established to provide services for asylum-seekers, had inadequate privacy, was unsuitable and potentially unsafe for traumatized victims, could expose them to greater exploitation, and undermined victim recovery. Experts also noted a lack of specialized services in the centers for female victims who had been traumatized due to psychological, physical, or sexual violence. Suspected victims who were in the asylum process remained in direct provision accommodation while a determination was being made in relation to their claim for international protection, which could continue for years.

The government provided €310,000 ($372,150) to an NGO for assistance for sex trafficking victims, compared with €275,000 ($330,130) in 2016. The government also provided €50,000 ($60,020) to another NGO to assist labor trafficking victims, compared with €41,400 ($49,700) in 2016. The government also provided €76,400 ($91,720), to three NGOs for awareness and victim support projects for vulnerable populations, compared to €200,000 ($240,100) in 2016.

The government gave suspected foreign trafficking victims temporary relief from deportation, depending on cooperation with an ongoing investigation. Four victims were granted a six-month temporary residence permit. The temporary protection could evolve into permanent residency, and residency benefits were not linked to a conviction. Victims could theoretically obtain compensation through a court order, civil action, state bodies dealing specifically with work-related rights, and the criminal injuries compensation tribunal. No victims had ever received compensation through any of these means. NGOs criticized the lack of viable avenues for victim compensation, particularly those involved in sex trafficking since they would not have verifiable expenses or employment losses.

GRETA urged the adoption of a specific legal provision on the non-punishment of victims of trafficking in both its 2013 and 2017 reports, and, in 2015, the Irish high court found a need for protocols or legislation that dictate what happens when a victim was suspected of criminal activity; however, the trafficking law did not protect victims from prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. NGOs noted the process for victims to seek immunity from punishment for criminal activity as a result of their trafficking was complex and required early legal representation. If authorities prosecuted an individual before he or she was formally identified as a trafficking victim, the criminal record could not be expunged. Bench warrants were issued for two victims, including one who had been referred to services. The national police previously revised their protocols and increased regional training on identifying trafficking in cannabis cultivation; the police included a human trafficking specialist in teams conducting these arrests. Police continued pre-trial reviews of three cases for possible trafficking indicators related to arrests and pre-trial detention in cannabis production; the government did not identify any victims or overturn any prosecutions as a result of approximately 70 reviews. In May 2017, the national police arrested and detained two Vietnamese males in one case for cannabis cultivation without a license. Media reports indicated one of the men was smuggled in a shipping container, had his passport confiscated upon arrival, and felt he could not leave the marijuana grow house. While undergoing a trafficking investigation, prosecutors charged these individuals and they pled guilty. While keeping the men in detention, the judge postponed their sentencing to await the result of the trafficking investigation, noting the case demonstrated a level of coercion and acknowledging the men were preyed upon. In April 2018, the courts found they were not victims and sentenced them to two and a half years in prison. NGOs maintained that in certain cases, law enforcement failed to identify indicators of trafficking and undocumented potential victims were punished for immigration-related offenses. Joint inspections between labor inspectors and immigration authorities intimidated undocumented potential victims and posed a barrier to the identification of victims.


The government maintained prevention efforts. The justice ministry's anti-trafficking unit coordinated interagency efforts, including the high-level interagency group, which met twice, and five working groups that included NGOs. Of the five working groups, which provided a platform for consultation and civil society, two of them met one time each during the reporting period. The government published in January a report on its efforts from 2016. The government continued funding a consortium of NGOs to develop trafficking training materials for staff of the RIA centers for asylum-seekers. The workplace relations commission provided information on employment rights to approximately 52,000 callers and made 54 presentations on employment rights. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for sex trafficking or forced labor. The government did not fund the operation of a national hotline. The national police had a dedicated email address for reports of trafficking; the police took action stemming from 31 emails.

The government conducted awareness-raising for university students, social workers, diplomats, labor inspectors, migrant workers, and women's groups, among others. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade allocated €28,000 ($33,610) in funding to support capacity-building anti-trafficking work in Africa. An NGO criticized the government's immigration scheme for making crewmembers of Irish fishing fleets vulnerable to forced labor by linking sponsorship to a single employer and by limiting registration of existing workers to those who came forward within three months of the commencement date of the scheme. A parliamentary committee published a report recommending changes, including a moratorium on issuing permits to out-of-country non-EEA foreign nationals until the permit could be decoupled from a single employer and until the position of all in-country non-EEA nationals could be regularized. The committee also recommended a single department be given overall responsibility for the fishing industry.


As reported over the past five years, Ireland is a destination and source country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor, including forced criminal activity. Irish children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Authorities have reported an increase in suspected victims from Nigeria, Romania, Indonesia, Brazil, and Pakistan. Victims of forced labor have been identified in domestic work, the restaurant industry, waste management, fishing, seasonal agriculture, and car washing services. Vietnamese and Chinese men who have been prosecuted and sentenced for cannabis cultivation report indicators of forced labor, such as document retention, restriction of movement, and non-payment of wages. The government has reported the problem of forced labor in the country is growing. Women from Eastern Europe who are forced into marriage in Ireland are at risk for sex trafficking and forced labor.


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