LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Ireland – north and south – is far from immune from human trafficking, according to the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Women account for 67 percent of people trafficked into Ireland, and trafficking for sexual exploitation is the most common form of this modern slavery, accounting for 55 percent of victims, followed by labor trafficking at 38 percent, according to a 2023 report by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The most recent Trafficking in Persons Report from the U.S. State Department was published on June 24, and designated Ireland as a Tier 2 country in trafficking, which is applied to countries “whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.”

The TVPA is the U.S.’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. Until 2018, Ireland was at the highest rank of Tier 1.

“The Government of Ireland does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so,” the latest U.S. State Department said.

The U.S. office did say the Irish government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, included adopting efforts to guide national-level trafficking coordination, opening its first specialized trafficking shelter for women, and increasing funding for victim assistance and awareness-raising activities.

“However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government did not convict any traffickers for trafficking and instead relied on non-trafficking statues that may have, at times, resulted in inadequate penalties and has never convicted a trafficker for labor trafficking under its anti-trafficking law,” the State Department said.

“The government did not overhaul its framework for providing accommodations to trafficking victims, which continues to leave victims with inadequate and unsuitable accommodations. The government did not report providing trafficking-specific training to any judges and has never awarded restitution or compensation to any victims,” the U.S. report said.

In their statement, the Irish bishops said human trafficking “is wrong, it is illegal and it is sinful.”

“The State has a duty to empower people working in this area and, in the area of prevention and the prosecution of traffickers. In this regard, there needs to be greater cooperation between the governments north and south on the island,” the bishops said, adding the issue is now even more urgent due the increased numbers of immigrants forced to come to Ireland from Great Britain.

“Trafficking often goes unseen. It is often said that human trafficking is hidden in plain sight.  Therefore, we have a responsibility as a society to heighten our awareness of it,” they continued.

The Church leaders mentioned that many group – including Catholic-based groups such as APT (Act to Prevent Trafficking), and Stella Maris Apostleship of the Sea – are already working to counter human trafficking in Ireland.

However, the bishops said Catholic parishes can also play their part by becoming more informed, learning the tell-tale signs of trafficking, creating increasing awareness of the available support services for victims in place, and finding out what to do if you suspect someone in their local area has been trafficked into Ireland.

We urge leaders in the spheres of business, politics and social affairs, and all of us as consumers, to put human dignity ahead of profit and gain. If we close our eyes and ears, if we do nothing, we are guilty of complicity,” they said.

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