Changes to the regime for helping victims of human trafficking approved says Senator

The Government has approved changes to the regime for helping victims of human trafficking making it easier for them to come forward according to Senator Fiona O’Loughlin .

A system is to be devised whereby not just An Garda Síochána but other arms of the State will be involved so as to make it easier for trafficked people to come forward.

The proposals will make it easier for victims to come forward and be officially recognised as victims of human trafficking in order to receive appropriate supports. “These reforms will make it easier for victims of human trafficking to come forward and seek protection. It will also make it easier for the State to provide that support and protection in a collaborative way across the range of Departments and agencies, and working with key NGOs,” said Senator O’Loughlin.

  Currently, when suspected victims of human trafficking are encountered by, or referred to, An Garda Síochána, they are provided with a wide range of services by both the Government and NGOs through the NRM. It is widely accepted that having the Gardaí as the sole competent authority for the formal recognition of people as victims of human trafficking is not an adequate response. Many victims will not approach the police, but may be more comfortable approaching a different state body, or an NGO. The new approach proposed acknowledges that, in addition to An Garda Síochána, other state bodies and NGOs have a role in identifying victims of human trafficking and referring them to the National Referral Mechanism.

“An Garda Síochána are excellent in their role as our competent authority but we know some victims, because of interactions they may have had with law enforcement officials in other jurisdictions, have a perception that police cannot be trusted. We want to be sure that every victim of trafficking is identified and helped so that we can support them,” the Kildare Senator added. “Doing this will also help us gather more information and evidence in order to bring to justice the traffickers who prey on vulnerable people with no regard for the lives and safety of their victims. The new NRM we are proposing to introduce will provide a variety of avenues for victims of trafficking to be identified and find a route to the services we have available.”

 In addition to An Garda Síochána, it is being proposed that the following agencies will become competent authorities for the identification of victims of human trafficking:

–          Department of Justice Immigration Services

–          Department of Social Protection

–          The HSE

–          Tusla

–          Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth

–          International Protection Accommodation Services (IPAS)

 “These proposals follow the recent announcement by Minister of State for Civil and Criminal Justice, of an initiative to expunge previous convictions for ‘sale of sex’, or prostitution offences, and are a significant step in recognising and responding to the needs of victims of sex trafficking, and those forced to provide sexual services,” concluded Senator O’Loughlin.