Human trafficking is happening in Ireland - don’t close your eyes
2018-10-01 12:04:33 -
Human Rights


What is human trafficking?

Trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery. It is essentially about coercing or deceiving someone so that they can be moved into a situation where they are exploited.

The crime has three distinct elements: The act of recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons must be done by a means such as the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or the giving or receiving of payments, and it must be for the purpose of exploitation (including prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery or similar practices, forced begging, criminal activities, or removal of organs).

People can be trafficked into numerous exploitative situations. These can range from forced labour (car washes, restaurant and hotel work, nail bars, domestic work, construction, agriculture and entertainment), to sexual exploitation (prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation), to forced criminality (ATM theft, pick-pocketing, benefit fraud, drug production/cultivation) and also forced begging.

There is no requirement that a person must have crossed a border for trafficking to have taken place – it can and does take place within national borders.

It is important to note that people smuggling and human trafficking are not the same thing. People are trafficked by means of coercion or deception, whereas people who are smuggled usually consent to being smuggled.


Human trafficking in Ireland

The latest figures show that between January 2009 and December 2017, a total of 283 suspected victims of human trafficking were reported to or detected by An Garda Síochána. There has been an increase in the number of victims detected in the past three years. However, the full extent of the issue is not known due to the underground nature of the crime.

There is a dedicated Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in the Department of Justice and Equality that is responsible for the policy and co-ordination of State and civil society in the fight against trafficking.

The Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit in An Garda Síochána provides a lead role in investigating the crime of human trafficking. It oversees all investigations where there is an element of human trafficking and provides advice, guidance and operational support for investigations. An Garda Síochána interacts with Interpol and Europol on a regular basis as part of human trafficking investigations.

The HSE’s Anti-Human Trafficking Team, as part of their Women’s Health Service, operates a free sexual health clinic services and outreach support to women/trans women involved in sex industry. The AHTT has responsibility for care planning for both female/male victims of trafficking in all areas of exploitation

In 2017, Ireland enacted the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act. Part 4 of the act criminalised the purchase of sexual services, while decriminalising the sale of sexual services. This ensures that vulnerable people in the sex industry are protected, while those that engage in exploitative behaviour are discouraged from purchasing sex. This legislation also introduced new provisions regarding the giving of evidence by victims in sexual offence trials and introduces a new offence addressing public indecency.


Supporting victims

Ireland understands that victims of human trafficking have often be subject to extreme abuse, and can be severely traumatised. The State provides accommodation, medical care, immigration permission (if needed), legal aid and advice, police services, translation and interpretation services, and employment and vocational training. Victims are always offered support in returning home, if they wish to do so.


Know the signs

No one willingly signs up to becoming a slave. Traffickers frequently recruit victims through fraudulent advertisements which promise legitimate jobs. Trafficking victims can be recruited by family members and can come from rural and urban settings.

Recognising that a person may be a victim of human trafficking is a difficult task, so familiarising yourself with some of the general indicators of trafficking will be of assistance.

A potential victim of human trafficking might:

- Allow others to speak for them when directly addressed.

- Have their movement controlled and show fear or anxiety

- Be subjected to violence or threats of violence.

- Be unfamiliar with the local language.

- Not be in possession of their passport or other identity documents, as those are being held by someone else.

- Be in a situation of dependence.


How victims present

Victims of human trafficking may suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, memory loss, depression, substance abuse and eating disorders or a combination of these conditions. 

People who have suffered at the hands of traffickers may be conditioned to mask the truth and severity of the trauma which they have experienced.  Victims may feel that no one will believe their story and be distrustful of people in authority and of the motives of those who are actually trying to help them.

This is where our associated NGOs act as a vital safety net. In Ireland NGOs active in the field of human trafficking include Ruhama (sexual exploitation), the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (labour exploitation), the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Sexual Violence Centre Cork and Doras Luimni in Limerick. Contact information for these organisations is available on


How to report concerns about human trafficking

Human trafficking may be happening anywhere in Ireland – in cities, towns and villages. You can help prevent human trafficking by being vigilant and by reporting any suspicions or information to the Garda. There is no obligation to provide personal information.

If you believe that a person might be a victim of human trafficking, you should:

- Ring 999 or 112 if you think that a person is in imminent danger.

- If you have any information, or suspect someone to be a trafficker or a victim of

trafficking, an anonymous telephone hotline to confidentially report suspicions of trafficking is available at 1800 25 00 25,

- Or you can email your concerns to

- Where a potential victim does not wish

to engage with the authorities they can

be referred to the aforementioned NGOs.


For more information visit:

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