Victims of human trafficking will automatically be protected from deportation under plans the government will announce on Monday.
The provision is one of numerous measures in the Third National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.
A new system will be introduced to make it easier for victims of human trafficking to come forward. In addition, training on recognizing signs of human trafficking will be introduced in various sectors. This applies to government employees as well as workers in the hospitality, aviation, shipping and security sectors who may come into contact with victims of human trafficking.
Training is also provided to defense force personnel who may encounter cases of human trafficking during their peacekeeping operations abroad.
Last year the Garda officially identified 42 victims of human trafficking. Most were trafficked to Ireland for sexual or labor exploitation. A 2021 report from Mary Immaculate College in Limerick suggests that actual human trafficking incidents may be 38 percent higher than official figures.
In October, Ruhama, a charity that supports women affected by prostitution, reported a 35 percent increase in human trafficking victims seeking help.
As part of the package of measures, all deportation measures against people identified as victims or suspected victims of human trafficking will be suspended “to eliminate further trauma and increased risk of harm.”
A new national referral mechanism will allow victims of human trafficking to refer not only to An Garda Síochána, but to a wide range of state authorities.
“This takes into account the fact that victims may not have confidence in police services due to their experiences in their own country,” the ministry said.
“Human trafficking is an exploitative and particularly heinous crime, targeting some of the most vulnerable and carried out without regard for life, dignity or the most basic human rights,” said Justice Minister Helen McEntee.
“Victims of human trafficking can be found everywhere and are often hidden from public view. Their vulnerability may make them particularly difficult to reach. “Across Government we recognize the seriousness of this crime and are committed to tackling it.”
Outside the direct provision system, special accommodation for victims will be set up and existing employment practices will be reviewed to help people escape exploitative situations and enter the mainstream workforce.
Children separated from their parents are particularly at risk of human trafficking and better information is needed about migrant children missing from care in Tusla, the Ministry of Justice says.
A check is carried out on missing children to determine whether they are linked to human trafficking.
With regard to sexual exploitation, “exit routes” are established to help victims of human trafficking exit prostitution.
The ministry said prostitution and human trafficking were “inextricably linked” and that between 1,000 and 1,600 women were involved in sex work in Ireland each year.
The ministry is also considering introducing “forced marriage protection orders” to prevent people smuggling for marriage purposes. These have existed in the UK since 1996 and allow a judge to prevent a marriage from taking place or seize the passports of parties who may be attempting to travel abroad to get married.
This can be done at very short notice upon application to the family court.