Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons


Ireland is a destination and source country for women, men, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor—including forced criminal activity. Foreign trafficking victims identified in Ireland are from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. During the reporting period, law enforcement reported an increase in suspected victims of sex trafficking and forced labor, forced criminal activity, and forced begging. Authorities reported an increase in suspected victims from Nigeria and Romania. Irish children are subjected to sex trafficking within the country. Victims of forced labor have been identified in domestic service, the restaurant industry, and car washing services. Undocumented migrant workers are at higher risk of being subjected to labor trafficking. NGOs indicate 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. Media reports claimed undocumented Ghanaian, Filipino, Egyptian, and Indian migrant fishermen endure conditions possibly indicative of forced labor, including debt bondage, such as document retention, restriction of movement, and non-payment of wages, dangerous working conditions, and verbal and physical abuse. Some domestic workers, primarily women, are at risk of labor trafficking. Trafficking for forced marriage is a newly recognized phenomenon; women from Eastern Europe are subjected to sex trafficking and trafficking for forced marriage. The government acknowledged the problem of forced labor in the country is growing.

The Government of Ireland fully meets the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During the reporting period, the government increased investigations of trafficking crimes, although it has not convicted a trafficker under the 2008 anti-trafficking law since 2013. The government continued to prosecute a high number of non-trafficking crimes as trafficking cases, including child molestation cases, and neither prosecuted nor convicted sex or labor traffickers under the 2008 anti-trafficking law in 2015. Authorities maintained victim identification and protection efforts. However, law enforcement’s continued failure to identify suspected victims of forced criminal activity and their subsequent prosecution and imprisonment within the Irish court system remained a serious concern.


Implement trafficking laws to hold sex and labor traffickers accountable through convictions and dissuasive sentences; increase efforts to identify and protect victims of labor trafficking and forced criminality, ensuring victims are not penalized for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking; establish multi-stakeholder case reviews during the victim identification process, involving service providers and anti-trafficking law enforcement units; offer specialized emergency accommodation and use of apartments and houses with outreach support to victims; publish the second national anti-trafficking action plan; enable and encourage all trafficking victims to access available legal services; and amend the policy to authorize the identification of trafficking victims in the asylum process and grant them relevant residence permits, including access to training and work.


The government sustained efforts to investigate trafficking offenses, but has not convicted any labor or sex traffickers under the 2008 anti-trafficking act since 2013. The 2008 human trafficking act, amended in 2013, prohibits all forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties up to life imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The law broadly defines sexual exploitation, including the sexual abuse of children, and conflates possession or creation of child pornography with human trafficking, making it inconsistent with the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Section 5 of the 2008 act criminalizes soliciting or importuning a person subjected to trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

Authorities initiated investigations of 91 new trafficking-related cases in 2015, an increase from 79 in 2014. Four of the investigations were closed and the government will not prosecute them due to various factors, including lack of evidence, lack of cooperation from witnesses, and unidentified suspects. The government did not report for the second consecutive year how many cases it reviewed of individuals charged with drug-related offenses for work in cannabis cultivation to establish whether they involved trafficking. Authorities did not report how many individuals charged with these offenses were found to be trafficking victims. In 2015, all of the prosecutions under the anti-trafficking act involved the sexual abuse of children as opposed to trafficking as defined under the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. The government did not report any criminal convictions for sex trafficking or forced labor under the anti-trafficking act in 2015. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, convictions, or sentencing of government officials for alleged complicity in trafficking offenses. During the reporting period, the government established a national protective services bureau, which includes the human trafficking investigation and coordination unit within the police force. In 2015, authorities hosted a three-day seminar on combating trafficking for 148 members of the police force, and an additional 70 members of senior police management received awareness raising training on human trafficking. Law enforcement cooperated with various foreign governments on trafficking investigations.


The government maintained victim protection efforts. The national referral mechanism required victims be referred to law enforcement before shelter, health, and legal services could be provided. Authorities identified 78 suspected trafficking victims in 2015, compared with 46 in 2014. Victims included 22 children, of which 15 were Irish; 22 victims from Romania; 13 from Nigeria; and the rest from Eastern Europe, Africa, and South Asia; 52 were female, 25 were male, and one was transgender; 48 were potentially exploited in sex trafficking; 28 were exploited in labor trafficking—11 for forced labor in temporary Romanian car washes, three for forced begging, and five for forced criminal activity; two in both sex and labor trafficking; and seven, including four Nigerians, had previously applied for asylum. Authorities did not report how many suspected victims they ultimately confirmed as trafficking victims. NGOs reported the continued lack of an effective mechanism to identify victims inhibited victims from receiving adequate protection, assistance, and witness preparation, and claimed the standard of proof for victim identification was too high. Law enforcement decisions on victim status could not be appealed, and NGOs reported not being offered explanations of denials. The justice department’s anti-trafficking unit acknowledged the need to improve victim identification measures, and solicited NGO input for a potential new framework. All 56 inspectors of the Workplace Relations Commission and 106 immigration officials received training on trafficking indicators.

The national referral mechanism included formal procedures guiding the provision of services to trafficking victims. All foreign adult victims from countries outside the EU were offered lodging in the government-operated network of 34 asylum reception centers. Child victims were supported through child protection services. Irish adult victims could receive services through general social welfare and health service channels. In 2015, officials completed individual care plans for 28 suspected sex trafficking victims and 30 suspected labor trafficking victims, compared with 20 suspected sex trafficking victims and 19 suspected labor trafficking victims in 2014, that covered medical care, psychological care, lodging, legal assistance, and education and training. The government provided 225,000 euros ($256,300) to an NGO for assistance for sex trafficking victims, compared with 172,000 euros ($195,900) in 2014, and 9,564 euros ($10,900) to an NGO to assist labor trafficking victims, compared with 4,000 euros ($4,560) in 2014. The government gave additional funding to three organizations for projects to address victims’ personal and social needs. NGOs reported concerns with lack of trauma and gender sensitivity, inadequate privacy protections and security, and remote locations and inaccessibility of some of these centers. Possible trafficking victims who have an asylum application pending are not entitled to work pending a decision on their application. The referral tracking system did not allow social workers to verify whether the full range of services for which victims were eligible had actually been provided.

The government provided identified, undocumented migrant trafficking victims a 60-day reflection period to decide whether to assist law enforcement, during which victims were prohibited from working, as well as six months of temporary residency, during which victims were required to cooperate with law enforcement. Authorities granted five victims reflection periods and 28 victims six-month temporary residence permission in 2015; six of these victims received the permission without requiring a prior reflection period. The government did not report how many victims received ad hoc long-term residency by extending their temporary residence permission to remain in the country while cooperating with law enforcement. NGOs believed the government put too much emphasis on law enforcement cooperation from victims. NGOs report that some trafficking victims were advised to submit asylum claims, though this could cause problems for victims because it precluded them from seeking legal employment. Seven potential trafficking victims identified in 2015 had previously requested asylum in Ireland. NGOs urged the government to codify protections for all victims, irrespective of immigration status, which are currently governed by administrative procedures. The government offered free legal aid to all suspected trafficking victims, but not all eligible individuals used the aid; in 2015, 24 suspected victims did so, compared with 16 in 2014. As early legal representation was not always available, some victims faced challenges navigating the immigration system and lacked representation during the investigation process.

The law did not protect victims from prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. NGOs reported that if the government prosecuted victims for crimes they committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking before their identification as victims, their criminal record could not be expunged following formal identification. NGOs continued to report the government prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned Asian victims of forced labor in cannabis production for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. In 2015, the national police reported 70 Asian nationals remained in prison related to cannabis offences, including 30 cases where the defendants were in pre-trial detention, and the remainder in jail as convicts. The national police were reviewing the 30 pre-trial cases for trafficking indicators, but the government did not report how many defendants were involved. NGOs expressed frustration at having no information on the progress of the review, ongoing since 2014. In 2015, the high court ruled the national police failed to identify a Vietnamese adult trafficking victim who was forced to work in cannabis production, finding deficiencies in the investigation and in policies and procedures for identifying trafficking victims. In 2015, NGOs reported the government tried and acquitted two trafficking victims for cannabis production, and did not take measures to assist them after release from prison, exacerbating their vulnerability. The national police enacted new measures during the reporting period to investigate human trafficking independently of drug offenses. The government, in collaboration with law enforcement, was compiling a set of guidelines to assist police officers in investigating these cases, but they remained in draft at the end of the reporting period. The government reported taking steps to make police and prosecutors aware of the possible victimization of individuals involved in cannabis cultivation, but did not report identifying any such individuals as trafficking victims in 2015, despite what NGOs reported as strong indicators of forced labor in the cannabis production sector. Trafficking victims can file civil suits against their traffickers. However, it has proven more difficult for sex trafficking victims to obtain compensation than labor trafficking victims, who have the option of pursuing cases through the Labour Relations Commission, and also can claim quantifiable losses related to employment.

Media reports claimed undocumented Ghanaian, Filipino, Egyptian, and Indian migrant workers were routinely subjected to exploitative labor and possibly trafficking for forced labor on Irish trawlers, and were subject to passport retention, denial of freedom of movement, severe sleep deprivation, verbal and physical abuse, and dangerous working practices. The government identified one victim of labor trafficking in the fishing industry. The government identified the maritime industry as a potentially high risk area for human trafficking. The agriculture department established an interdepartmental taskforce, including representatives from civil society, charged with monitoring and oversight of the industry, and eliminating forced labor vulnerabilities. Ireland participates in an international group of senior law enforcement officials and Catholic bishops working with civil society to eradicate human trafficking; and leads a project focused on the fisheries industry in the North Atlantic, which carried out several law enforcement investigations and inspections in 2015, one of which led to the identification of a non-EU labor trafficking victim in the Irish fishing industry. The case was under investigation at the close of the reporting period, and the victim received victim services from the government and NGOs.


The government strengthened its anti-trafficking prevention efforts. The justice ministry’s anti-trafficking unit coordinated interagency efforts, including the high-level interagency group and five working groups that included NGOs. NGOs called for the working groups to resume meeting on a regular schedule. The draft second national action plan remained under review for a third year, and NGOs expressed frustration at the length of the process. Authorities made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex and for forced labor. The government introduced a bill to criminalize the purchase of commercial sex, and classified the purchase of sex from a trafficking victim as a more serious offense. Authorities and NGOs completed an awareness-raising campaign on sex trafficking. The government conducted anti-trafficking trainings on supply chain issues for employees of a food production company. NGOs advocated for an independent national rapporteur to monitor government anti-trafficking efforts. The government monitored the guidelines instituted in the previous reporting period aimed at preventing the exploitation of domestic workers of foreign diplomats in Ireland, and there appeared to be a decrease in forced labor among domestic workers in diplomatic households. The government required all locally engaged staff of diplomats to have contracts in compliance with local labor law; NGOs recommended the government extend these measures to service staff employed by diplomats. The government provided anti-trafficking training to its diplomatic personnel and defense forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.