Tuesday 16 January 2018

Irish are among victims of trafficking and enslavement

Jim Cusack

Jim Cusack

IRISH citizens are among the victims of trafficking and enslavement in cases investigated by gardai in recent years, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Details of the cases have been kept out of the public domain and in none of the cases have there been any criminal charges.

The only figures officially available from the Department of Justice – up to 2011 – show that in that year six "Irish citizens" were included among 57 detected victims of trafficking and enslavement.

No figures have been made publicly available for 2012. But in 2009 department figures show that there were another six Irish citizens found to be enslaved. A total of 78 people were found to have been trafficked and enslaved in 2009.

Figures released to the European Council but not published here show that last year 48 trafficking victims were detected, of whom 23 were children. In 39 cases the victims were found to be trafficked here for sexual exploitation. Thirty-one of the victims were female. Garda investigations led to three of the cases being dismissed as fake.

The majority of trafficking cases in Ireland concern women and children brought here for sexual exploitation or domestic servitude. It is not clear what conditions the Irish citizens who were found to be enslaved were subjected to, or whether they were being exploited for sexual or domestic work.

There has been only one conviction for trafficking under the 2008 Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, a Nigerian woman who was sentenced to three years for subjecting a trafficked girl aged 16 to prostitution.

And, it has emerged, Ireland's record in dealing with trafficking victims and slaves has been criticised by the European agency charged with monitoring provisions for victims of human trafficking.

The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (Greta) expressed concern that the State's complete lack of secure accommodation for trafficking victims and slaves was providing traffickers with the opportunity to recapture and "retraffick" them.

It is estimated that at least 500 children trafficked into Ireland disappeared after being left in unsecured immigrant hostels.

The Greta report, completed in September, was also critical of the State's failure to provide proper protection for trafficked victims, instead treating them as illegal immigrants, if they apply for asylum in Ireland.

The Sunday Independent has learned of the case of one African girl who was has been trapped in a legal limbo for fire years after social workers found that she had been trafficked into Ireland as a slave for a Nigerian family.

It is understood the girl was sold because her mother had other children and was unable to feed them. The girl was brought here when she was 12 and forced to do domestic work and look after the family's younger children.

She was reported by concerned neighbours who became aware that she was subjected to regular beatings and not allowed to attend school. She was taken into care and placed with a foster family. But, five years on, she has still to receive any permanent guarantee of refugee status or citizenship. When she turns 18 she could face deportation.

Although the report by the European Council expert group does not state thatIreland is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, several of its findings expose failings to meet conditions set down for the treatment of trafficking victims and slaves.

It found there "are no dedicated shelters operated by the Irish State for the accommodation of suspected human trafficking cases".

This was highlighted in the case of the "GPO girl" who was, at first, believed to have been a victim of trafficking. The Health Service Executive was unable to provide her with any secure accommodation and she had to remain under garda protection in hospital. It later emerged that she was a 25-year-old Australian with mental health problems.

Under the European Convention, countries must provide a period of "recovery and reflection" for detected victims of trafficking.

In Ireland's case, it said, this recuperation period "is applied very rarely".

In Ireland, the Greta report says, rather than providing this period as an entitlement, it is used as a form of regularising a person's stay in the country. It points out that of the 57 trafficking victims detected in 2011, only one was granted the recovery period dictated to signatory states under the European Convention, and none was granted this period in 2012.

The report also points that in no trafficking case has the garda's witness protection scheme been applied.

The EU experts visited one of the main immigrant hostels at Balseskin in north Dublin, which is the "primary centre" for the placement of suspected human trafficking victims.

At the time of their visit earlier this year there were 10 victims of trafficking accommodated at the centre.

The report says: "Greta is concerned that the Balseskin reception centre, not being a specialised facility for victims of trafficking, is not an appropriate environment for such victims on a number of accounts: mixing of men and women, which can expose vulnerable women to further grooming and exploitation; lack of privacy, victims sharing bedrooms with up to three other persons; difficulty to apply a personalised approach as staff may not be aware of who the victims of trafficking are; and possibility for traffickers to access victims."

The Greta report adds: "Experience also shows that traffickers have used the asylum system for accommodation, while they simultaneously traffick victims, leading to the increased risk of targeting for retrafficking."

Sunday Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News