TRIPS best-practice report and toolkit launched to improve supports for marginalised victims of human trafficking overlooked in the international protection system
Report finds sexual exploitation of vulnerable migrant women continued unabated during pandemic
Exploitation within the sex industry continued unabated for much of the Covid-19 pandemic with pimps and facilitators moving their exploitative practices online. That’s according to research reflected in a report released by the Immigrant Council of Ireland today, (9 December 2021), which highlights Ireland’s downfalls in supporting victims of human trafficking
The report accompanies the release of a best-practice toolkit for service-providers and is the culmination of a two-year, pan-European initiative – the TRIPS project. The EU funded anti-trafficking project analysed the integration conditions and risk for victims of being exposed or re-exposed to human trafficking in a number of countries, including Ireland.
The report published today highlights additional negative knock-on effects from the pandemic including a significant reduction in public services to support victims of trafficking and the inability of victims to isolate or maintain social distance in cramped direct provision living conditions.
Beyond the pandemic, the TRIPS report identifies several key areas where Ireland is struggling to effectively support victims of trafficking, notably highlighting the distinctly different support and integration pathways that exist for victims identified through Ireland’s human trafficking system compared to victims of trafficking in the international protection process who are not formally identified through the State system.
Commenting on the report, Immigrant Council of Ireland CEO Brian Killoran said:
“Ireland has been consistently criticised by anti-trafficking experts and organisations for its inconsistent approach to assisting survivors of trafficking depending on their immigration status – specifically whether they have applied for international protection or not. We acknowledge the increased focus on the issue of human trafficking by the Department of Justice, the increased level of both funding to and engagement with civil society by the State, and the positive work of the HSE and An Garda Síochána in support of victims of human trafficking. However, the overall State approach and level of coordination remains fragmented and is in need of reform to ensure the best outcomes for women abused in such dire circumstances.”
GRETA hears concerns from sector
During a fact-finding visit to Dublin this week, the Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) heard of concerns from a number of groups campaigning on this issue.
Mr. Killoran continued,
“In meetings this week with GRETA, these criticisms were reiterated by civil society. While acknowledgement was given to positive developments over the past number of years, such as the appointment of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission as Ireland’s national rapporteur on the issue, the increased level of funding to support services and the promised reform of victim identification and housing issues for trafficked migrants, concerns were raised on the continuing difficulties faced by victims in navigating their rights and entitlements.
“While reform of this area is clearly on the government’s agenda, change is coming grindingly slowly for victims. The TRIPS project captures the international best practices for optimal integration of survivors of human trafficking into their host society through an expert report and toolkit developed for frontline service providers. Specifically, the toolkit will help service providers recognise a possible victim of trafficking and understand what potential options exist for the victim to escape exploitation, reclaim their independence and livelihood, and integrate effectively into their host society.”
Concluding, Mr Killoran added,
“It is hoped that with ongoing training and effective awareness building among service providers, a consistent approach reflecting the international best practices identified in the TRIPS project will be standardised and implemented across services, facilitating enhanced cooperation between relevant stakeholders and overall better outcomes for survivors.”
Downfalls in Irish approach to supporting victims of trafficking
Through the TRIPS project, in-depth research carried out by the Immigrant Council of Ireland team identified numerous deficiencies in the current Irish system which identifies and assists victims of human trafficking, including:
- Inconsistency of basic rights for victims provided by national policies and legislation, depending on whether they are in the international protection process or not, including: family reunification, opening a bank account, and obtaining a driving licence;
- Insufficient resourcing of bespoke psychological and counselling support for victims of trafficking;
- Inappropriate housing of traumatised victims of human trafficking in mixed-gender reception accommodations where they are at risk of further trauma and exploitation;
- Inadequate training of accommodation staff in supporting and caring for victims of trafficking;
- Limited access to childcare supports for mothers with dependent children;
- Insufficient access to legal advice and representation, and training and education support grants;
- Racism and discrimination experienced in various settings, from accessing housing to seeking employment.
To address these shortcomings, the TRIPS toolkit outlines a number of best practice guidelines to aid service providers in optimally supporting victims of trafficking through every stage of the integration process. These recommendations include:
- Reforming the State victim identification process to ensure consistent provision of services and supports for all victims of human trafficking whether they are seeking international protection or not;
- Reinforcing and expanding training and capacity building of frontline service providers;
- Ensuring the integration needs of survivors of trafficking are knit into Ireland’s soon-to-be renewed anti-trafficking national action plan through an all-of-Government approach covering relevant areas including employment, health, education, and housing;
- Access for women victims of trafficking to bespoke gender-appropriate accommodation;
- Expanding access to free legal support for assistance with family reunification applications for victims;
- Developing pathways to help survivors reclaim their independence through education and retraining.