The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, has welcomed Government approval of the drafting ofnew legislation that will better support victims of human trafficking as she marks this year’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons.
The Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2022, the General Scheme of which was approved by Cabinet this week, will put a revised National Referral Mechanism on a statutory footing, making it easier for victims of trafficking to come forward, be identified, and access support.
This will widen the number of bodies and organisations victims of trafficking can come forward to and report what is happening to them. Currently, An Garda Síochána is the only organisation, or competent authority, victims can report to.
In addition to An Garda Síochána, it is being proposed that the Department of Justice, the Department of Social Protection, the HSE, Tusla, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth and the International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS) will also become competent authorities for the identification of victims of human trafficking.
In addition, some NGOs will be designated as ‘trusted partners’ and will also be able to refer victims, which creates an alternative and trusted pathway to enter the NRM, aside from through interaction with State agencies.
Minister McEntee said:
"Today is a timely reminder of the terrible reality that too many people worldwide continue to suffer at the hands of traffickers, and that we must continue our efforts to combat this abhorrent crime.
“The revised National Referral Mechanism, approved by Government earlier this week, will make a significant difference to Ireland’s capacity to identify and support harder-to-reach human trafficking victims.
“This new approach acknowledges that many victims of human trafficking may not feel comfortable coming forward to police services, perhaps because of previous experiences in other countries. We will make it easier for victims to seek help by increasing the number of organisations they can report to – and this includes non-government organisations.
“It will allow all agencies, both State and civil society, to co-operate, identify and share information about potential victims and facilitate their access to advice, accommodation and support.”
There have been a number of significant developments recently in the fight against human trafficking here including:
- The first convictions, in September of last year, for human trafficking
- The development of a new National Action Plan on Human Trafficking
- An increase in funding dedicated specifically to supporting victims of trafficking, and for public awareness and prevention efforts.
Working with the International Organisation for Migration and others, the Department of Justice has taken proactive steps to raise awareness of - and mitigate any potential risk of - trafficking as people escape the war in Ukraine.
Minister McEntee added,
“The mass movement of people across Europe over the past five months has served only to concentrate minds and deepen our resolve to help. We have seen this on a national level and at EU level.
“Ireland is determined to play its full part in providing safe refuge for the people fleeing from Ukraine and the Irish people have afforded a warm welcome to tens of thousands.
“However, we are also mindful that some will view it as an opportunity to deceive and exploit.
“We welcome the coordination across the EU to counter the serious and organised crime threats linked to the war, particularly those targeting the vulnerable and most at risk of exploitation.”
The theme of the UN’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons 2022 is the use and abuse of technology, with technology having significantly exacerbated exploitation and trafficking. This ranges from technology being used to recruit victims to technology being used to advertise women and girls on adult services platforms.
Minister McEntee paid tribute to a wide range of partners across the public service providing care and practical support to trafficking victims including An Garda Síochána, the HSE, the Legal Aid Board, the Immigration Service, and Tusla, as well as NGOs funded by the Department to provide support.
The Garda Inspectorate has recently launched a consultation on transnational organised crime, which will seek views and experiences from victims and stakeholders on how An Garda Síochána tackles transnational organised crime, including trafficking. The consultation can be accessed through links found on the Garda Inspectorate website at www.gsinsp.ie and on its social channels.
Further information can be found on the Department of Justice’s dedicated anti trafficking website at blueblindfold.ie