Ireland is a “haven” for human traffickers, with a “huge number” of them exploiting women, children and men, people working with survivors have warned. Serious concern has also been expressed at the failure of authorities to identify victims of child trafficking.
Sr Eilis Coe RSC warned that there is a “huge demand” for the buying and selling of victims of trafficking in Ireland. She is part of a coalition of religious congregations stepping up pressure on the Government to act on the issue after stinging criticism from international bodies.
If there was no demand, there would be no supply, Sr Eilis insisted, warning that human trafficking is becoming indigenous now because “we want it”.
“There is a section of our population unfortunately that wants this,” she said referring to buyers of sex with trafficked persons and unscrupulous employers who exploit people who have been trafficked.
Sr Eilis, a member of Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT) also warned that anecdotal evidence suggests groups of people in Ireland are even trafficking their own children, “selling them on the streets of Dublin” for exploitation.
“It is in every sector and section of the population – and so…we have to tackle it, we just have to, for the sake of those children.”
Sr Eilis added that the whole of society has to change to tackle the “huge number of people buying and using and exploiting women and children and men in our country”.
She called for a nationwide awareness campaign, saying that “doctors, teachers, nurses [and] the general population, need more training in this because there is vast ignorance of the problem”.
Sr Eilis was speaking during a conference organised by the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles and the Society of African Missions on the latest Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, released last month by the US State Department.
Although Ireland was moved off a watchlist on failures around human trafficking, it has still failed to retain the ‘tier one’ status on tackling the issue that it lost almost five years ago.
Mary Crilly of the Sexual Violence Centre Cork warned that this is “a bad report” for the State.
“I am living in a sex traffickers’ haven in Ireland,” she insisted saying “this isn’t a criticism – this is a reality.
“The bottom line is that it [the Government] needs to do better, that’s really it,” she continued.
Although the report acknowledged the addition of a specialist prosecution team and a Garda unit, Ms Crilly was critical of the resources offered, saying they are not directed to where they are most needed.
Meanwhile, Ann Mara of MECPATHS, which works to protect children from trafficking, said her organisation has “very serious concerns” that in the last two years, no child victims of trafficking have been identified in the Republic.
“If we compare our statistics here in Ireland – our child victims – globally one third of all victims of trafficking identified are children,” Ms Mara said.
“When we look across the water to the UK, 46% of all of their victims are children. Up North, it’s 16%. And here in the Republic we’re saying 0% are children, and that is hugely, hugely concerning,” she warned.
Read Ruadhán Jones’ full featured article on the true scale of human trafficking in Ireland here.