Human trafficking is the transporting of people for exploitation. Victims are trafficked into various types of work, including farm work, domestic work and forced prostitution. They may be subjected to sexual abuse and other forms of violence.
You can also get help from the Health Service Executive’s (HSE) Anti-Human Trafficking Team, or any of the organisations listed in the section titled, ‘Support for victims of human trafficking’ below.
What is human trafficking?
Human trafficking involves the use of deception, threats or physical force to move a victim from one place to another in order to exploit them. In the case of children, no force is required - the very act of transporting a child into exploitative conditions constitutes trafficking.
Exploitation is a definitive element of human trafficking and distinguishes it from immigration-related offenses such as ‘people smuggling’, for example, where a migrant pays a third-party (a ‘smuggler’) to facilitate their illegal entry into the state. You can read more about the relation between human trafficking and people smuggling on Garda.ie.
Exploitation can take many forms, but includes:
- Sexual exploitation, such as the prostitution of the victim or the production of pornography depicting the victim
- Labour exploitation, such as forcing the victim to perform manual labour, carry out domestic services, or participate in criminality or begging
- Organ removal, performed without the free, informed and specific consent of the donor
You can read more about the different types of human trafficking, including warning signs that can help you to identify victims, on the Government’s anti-human trafficking website, blueblindfold.ie.
The law on human trafficking
The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013 make it an offence to traffic in adults or children for the purpose of their sexual or labour exploitation, forced criminality, forced begging or the removal of their organs.
It is also an offence to sell or purchase (or offer to sell or purchase) any person for any purpose. The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2017 criminalises the purchase of sexual services and the soliciting or purchasing of sex from a trafficked person.
Reporting suspicions of trafficking
If you consider yourself, or someone you know, to be a victim of human trafficking, you should report your concerns to the Garda Síochána (Irish police force). In an emergency, you should call 999 or 112.
If you wish to report suspicions of human trafficking confidentially you can call:
- The Garda Confidential Line on 1800 666 111; or
- Crimestoppers on 1800 250 025
You can also email suspicions or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Garda Síochána operate a special department dedicated to investigating allegations of human trafficking and supporting victims called the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit (HTICU). You can read more about Garda action in relation to human trafficking and the work of the HTICU on the Garda Síochana website.
Asylum for victims of human trafficking
As a potential victim of trafficking, you will not be deported or removed from Ireland while the Superintendent in the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) decides if there are reasonable grounds to believe you are a suspected victim of trafficking.
If you are identified as a potential victim of human trafficking, you can get free legal advice from the Legal Aid Board. In the event you apply for asylum in Ireland, the Legal Aid Board can provide legal representation in relation to your application. Find out more about legal aid for asylum seekers.
You can read more about the immigration rules (pdf) that apply to victims of human trafficking in Ireland. The Department of Justice has also published detailed guidance (pdf) on the steps involved in applying for immigration permission as a non-EEA citizen or asylum seeker who is a victim of human trafficking.
National Referral Mechanism
On 11 May 2021, the Government approved plans for a revised National Referral Mechanism (NRM) that is intended to make it easier for victims of human trafficking to get support from state and civil society organisations.
Under the new scheme, several state and non-governmental organisations are to join with An Garda Síochána in identifying victims of human trafficking and providing them with access to the range of support services available through the NRM.
These changes are set out in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2023 which is expected to become law by early 2024.
You can read more about these changes in the Department of Justice’s National Action Plan to prevent and combat Human Trafficking 2023-2027 (pdf).
Support for victims of human trafficking
If you are a victim of human trafficking, there are a range of Government and voluntary organisations available to support you on issues such as accommodation, medical care, childcare and asylum.
The Irish Government operates several services that support trafficking victims in need of:
- Accommodation – through the International Protection Accommodation Service, or Tusla in the case of children
- Health and psychological services – through the Health Service Executive, or Tusla in the case of children
- Legal advice – through the Legal Aid Board
A range of community and voluntary organisations are available to support trafficking victims. For general guidance or advice, you can contact:
- Migrant Rights Centre Ireland
- Immigrant Council of Ireland
- Act to Prevent Trafficking (APT)
- Cork Against Human Trafficking
If you are a victim of sexual violence or sexual exploitation, the following organisations are available to provide you with specialist support:
International organisations can also provide information on your rights as a victim of trafficking and other services including, if you wish, assisting with voluntary return home:
You can read more information about services available to support victims of crime.