Rights body highlights ‘significant gaps’ in identification of child trafficking victims

Rights body highlights 'significant gaps' in identification of child trafficking victims

Sinéad Gibney

A failure to identify any child victims of trafficking in the past two years shows “significant gaps” in Ireland’s current identification processes, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has said.

The rights watchdog today gave evidence to the Oireachtas joint committee on justice, which is currently examining the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2022.

Commission member Dr Salome Mbugua said the “elaborate” interplay between the systems of international protection, human trafficking and general child protection has caused the identification of child victims to “grind to a standstill”.

The Commission’s submission to the committee sets out 32 recommendations on the bill.

It notes the importance of ensuring statutory protection from prosecution for victims of human trafficking, advising that the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 be amended to include a specific statutory defence for victims of trafficking where they have committed crimes as a direct consequence of them being trafficked.

In addition, the Commission recommends that victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation be afforded the same protections as victims of rape and other sexual assault offences in criminal trials.

The Commission notes that there are no express provisions in the general scheme to provide for gender-specific services to victims — a “clear recommendation of the first National Evaluation Report” — and recommended that the bill contain access to gender-specific shelter.

Chief commissioner Sinéad Gibney said: “All forms of human trafficking are abhorrent, but those involving children are particularly repugnant. We see an urgent need for a separate child trafficking identification mechanism. We cannot begin to protect these vulnerable children if we cannot identify them.”

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