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Irish government’s failure to tackle human trafficking is causing severe harm to vulnerable individuals

20 Jun 2019
Press Release

The US State Department has criticised the Irish Government’s failure to tackle modern slavery, yet again. For the second year in a row, in its Trafficking in Persons Report, the State Department has placed Ireland in ‘Tier 2’, as a result of the Government’s failure to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

The US State Department has criticised the Government’s abysmal failures in failing to: 

  • Obtain any convictions for human trafficking in the six years that have followed since the introduction of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act in 2013;
  • Prosecute any human traffickers in 2018, including those exploiting migrant fishermen on Irish trawlers; 
  • Address the “chronic deficiencies” in victim identification, referral and assistance;
  • Provide specialised accommodation or adequate services for victims.

This shameful categorisation comes on the heels of the International Transport Workers’ Federation taking legal action to force the Government to address the severe labour trafficking and human rights abuses caused by the Atypical Work Permit Scheme for non-EEA crew in the Irish Fishing Fleet, which it established. 

The settlement agreement reached between the ITF and the Government in April of this year mandated changes in the Scheme to introduce a suite of protections for non-EU migrant fishermen, including, the right to move job without the consent of their sponsoring employer; the ability to obtain a copy of their contract and information in respect of the rights in their native language and English; and the right to be informed of how to lodge a complaint when their rights are violated. 

The Government also pledged to transpose an EU Directive governing maximum hours of work, minimum hours of rest and staffing requirements aboard commercial fishing vessels by 15 November, despite its failure to previously do so when repeatedly called upon. 

Yet, the State shows no signs of taking action to implement the agreement to date, and the US State Department Report published today serves as another reminder of the Government’s willingness to place vulnerable individuals at risk, compounding a national humiliation.  

Ken Fleming, the ITF Coordinator for the United Kingdom and Ireland says:

“The Government’s continued failure to demonstrate a clear commitment to tackle trafficking in human beings is not acceptable. The Government can begin by taking action today to implement the agreement reached between the ITF and various Government Departments in April 2019. 

The Atypical Work Permit Scheme, designed to prevent human trafficking in the fishing industry, had precisely the opposite effect. Despite raising concerns on several occasions,  the ITF was forced to take the Government to court in order to obtain its agreement to reform the Scheme. Yet there’s still no sign of any meaningful reform on the ground. 

It’s time the Taoiseach intervened to ensure victims of human trafficking are provided with adequate protections and to stop our country’s reputation being dragged through the mud by modern-day slave drivers.”

For more information contact Luke Menzies on +61 433 889 844 or email

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