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Fishers failure has Ireland put on exploitation watch list

news Press Release 02 Jul 2020

The government of the Republic of Ireland has been put on the United States Department of State’s ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ in the agency’s annual Trafficking In Persons report over Ireland’s failure to protect vulnerable workers such as fishers and those in the sex industry.

In the recently released 2020 version of the report, the State Department found that the Irish government’s failure to obtain any prosecutions against traffickers in the last year which has “weakened deterrence, contributed to impunity for traffickers, and undermined efforts to support victims to testify”.

Having fallen from Tier 1 to Tier 2 first in 2018, Ireland’s efforts to stop exploitation and human trafficking are getting worse with systematic deficiencies to eliminate the scourge of human trafficking in the country.

The Republic is now sitting on the Tier 2 Watch List, alongside other countries where the State Department notes high or increasing levels of trafficking activity where governments are not taking the appropriate measures to combat the trade. Ireland is currently the only country in Western Europe on the Tier 2 Watch List.

Ken Fleming, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) coordinator for Ireland and Britain, said that while deficiencies in victim identification, referral and assistance had all been identified to the Irish government by the ITF and other NGOs in the last twelve months, the Irish government had still failed to protect fishers and other vulnerable workers from trafficking and gross exploitation.

“The Irish Government and the politicians who have run it on all sides should be ashamed of what their negligence has done to Ireland’s reputation. Being put on State Department’s ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ after sliding from Tier 1 two years ago shows they are quite content to allow trafficking and exploitation to become endemic. These are real people we’re talking about – men, women and children,” said Fleming.

“We are concerned about both monitoring and enforcement. The number of suspected victims identified by the State has been falling in recent years, from 64 in 2018 and 57 in 2019, to 42 this year.”

“Where the government has bothered to find victims, the only substantial amounts secured in underpayments for these workers was thanks to the ITF. Last year we won €137,000 (USD 153,930) in restitution to eight trafficking victims for lost wages, before the Irish Labour Relations Commission.”

“The Irish government has allowed whole sectors of the economy to develop a low-wage model that can only be sustained by bringing in vulnerable workers from Asia and Africa. By their inaction, the State is allowing unscrupulous employers to regard these workers as totally expendable, as people they can hire and fire with impunity because of the inability or unwillingness of state agencies to uphold the law.”

“If Ireland wishes to avoid further tarnishing its international reputation, it must immediately work with unions to grow its monitoring and enforcement mechanisms against the trade in human misery currently taking place under its very nose,” concluded Fleming.

Media contact: media[at]

Note: Ken Fleming is available for media interviews.


Image credit: Louis Vest 2012, adapted under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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