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Human trafficking


The below details are correct at time of publishing, and are provided as guidance only. Seek legal advice from your solicitor where necessary.

Human Trafficking

If you or someone you know is being exploited, contact your local Gardaí. If you wish to report a crime anonymously you can contact the Garda Confidential Number 1800 666 111. You can also email anonymously and with strict confidentiality to blueblindfold@garda.ie

Yes. Irish legislation specifies the following types of exploitation - Sexual Exploitation, Labour Exploitation, exploitation consisting of the removal of one or more of the organs of a person, exploitation consisting of forcing a person to engage in criminal activity. 

Human trafficking for labour exploitation

People who have been trafficked for the purpose of labour exploitation are typically (but not exclusively) made to work in sectors such as: agriculture, construction, entertainment, service industry, manufacturing and domestic servitude as well as begging. Trafficking involves the recruitment, movement, harbouring or receiving of a person through means such as fear, fraud and deception, coercion, force or the abuse of power or a position of vulnerability, for the purpose of their sexual or labour exploitation, forced criminality or the removal of the organs of a person.

The following are possible indicators of having been trafficked for labour exploitation:

  • Work excessively long hours
  • Be forced to undertake hazardous work
  • Have low or no salary
  • Have no access to your earnings
  • Have no contract of employment
  • Have your labour rights infringed
  • Live with the family employing you
  • Live in groups in the same place where you work, and leave those premises infrequently
  • Not be dressed adequately for the work you do: for example you may lack protective equipment or warm clothing
  • Depend on your employer for a number  of services, including work, food, transportation and accommodation
  • Be made to pay for tools, food or accommodation and have these costs deducted from your wages
  • Have no tax or PRSI contributions and no access to social supports
  • Have your social activities and movements controlled by your employer
  • Never or rarely leave the house without your employer
  • Have no privacy, sleeping in shared and over-crowded spaces
  • Be given only leftover food to eat
  • Have no choice of accommodation offered to you
  • Never leave the work premises without your employer
  • Be unable to move freely
  • Live in degraded, unsuitable places, such as in agricultural or industrial buildings
  • Be subject to security measures designed to keep you on the work premises
  • Be disciplined through fines and threats
  • Be subjected to insults, abuse, threats or violence
  • Lack basic training and professional licenses
  • Work in places with no health and safety notices, with poor quality equipment and in hazardous conditions
  • Be unable to show an identity document
  • Be working without the employment documents required for workers from your country
  • Be afraid to reveal who is controlling you and lie about your story
  • Equipment is designed or has been modified so that it can be operated by children.
  • Have untreated injuries or illnesses, be in poor health or have untreated wounds
  • Children may be unregistered with a school or have an excuse why this should be, such as being schooled at home or just arrived into the country

In relation to begging, there are some specific indicators of human trafficking such as:

  • Children, elderly persons or disabled migrants who tend to beg in public places and public transport
  • Children of the same nationality or ethnicity who move in large groups with only a few adults or with the same adult guardian, or
  • ive as gang members with adults who are not their parents, or
  • Participate in the activities of organized criminal gangs

Human trafficking for sexual exploitation

The following are possible indicators of having been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation:

  • Be of any age, although the age may vary according to the location of the market
  • Move from one brothel to the next or work in various locations
  • Live in groups in the same place where you work, and leave those premises infrequently
  • Depend on your employer for a number  of services, including work, food, transportation and accommodation
  • Be escorted whenever you go and/or return from work and other outside activities
  • Have tattoos or other marks indicating ‘ownership’ by your exploiters
  • Work long hours or have few if any days off
  • Sleep where you work
  • Live or travel in a group, sometimes with other women who do not speak the same language
  • Have very few items of clothing. Taken into account with other indicators clothing may give an indication of a female being involved in prostitution.
  • Only know how to say sex-related words in the local language or in the language of the client group
  • Have no cash of your own
  • Be disciplined through fines and threats
  • Be unable to show an identity document
  • Be afraid to reveal who is controlling you and lie about your story
  • Be subjected to insults, abuse, threats or violence
  • Your mobile phone keeps ringing when you are out.
  • Live with the person employing you.
  • Be unable to move freely
  • Be subject to insults, abuse, threats or violence
  • Have a mobile telephone containing text messages with addresses to find locations
  • Have untreated injuries or illnesses, be in poor health, have sexually transmitted diseases, blood borne viruses etc.
  • Children exhibiting sexualized behaviour or language. 

Human trafficking for removal of organs

People who have been trafficked for the purpose of the removal of the organs of a person may:

  • Have unexplained scarring in kidney area
  • Show signs of inexpert surgery/ infections.

People smuggling involves illegal immigrants making an illegal entry into Ireland. Illegal immigrants want to come here and often pay someone to facilitate their illegal entry. This is being organised/facilitated by a third party i.e. a smuggler for gain.

Trafficking is a far more serious issue than immigration offences and therefore if trafficking is suspected it should take primacy.

Human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation and exploitation of a victim. This may include an illegal immigrant.  Consent initially given by the victim will not be valid if it was obtained by fraud, deception or coercion. In recruiting victims, the deception will involve certain strands either singularly or combined. This may be through complete coercion from threats or actual violence to the subject or family members and abduction. Deception may take a more subtle form and may exploit the economic conditions, the vulnerability or cultural beliefs of the victim. The fundamental difference between human trafficking and smuggling is that to constitute human trafficking there must be some form of exploitation involved or intended. Section 1 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 defines ‘exploitation’ which means:

  • Labour exploitation
  • Sexual exploitation or
  • Forced Criminality or
  • Exploitation consisting of the removal of one or more of the organs of a person.

The trafficker has control over the victim after they arrive at their point of destination and exploits them.

Other areas of exploitation include the facilitation of benefit and identity fraud, exploitation of children in areas such as begging, street musicians, flower sellers. People forced into marriage or into selling or giving up children for adoption whilst culturally acceptable in other cultures may contain elements of human trafficking. 

Traffickers use a number of strategies in their efforts to control their commodities, which are human beings. The most common examples are debt bondage where the trafficker has taken the opportunity to travel to another place based on a loan or an arrangement for them or their family in their country of origin to pay back the travel costs. There may be removal or control of documentation or demands for more money during this process. But invariably once within the realms of control, the victim’s personal freedom, threats to their life and safety, or that of their family, and subjugation to forms of physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse can all become apparent.

Crimes for Trafficking in Human Beings are arrestable offences with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

This usually involves a combination of indicators. Human trafficking is an underground crime and therefore it can be difficult to readily identify trafficked persons. There are a number of reasons why trafficked persons may not ask for help.  They may be physically trapped or constantly guarded.  They may fear retaliation against themselves or against their family, or they may feel ashamed, embarrassed or that they are somehow responsible for their own exploitation. However, there are some common indicators that may alert you to the fact that this person may be a victim.

It is often said that victims of Human Trafficking are “hidden in plain sight”. This means that these people are there in front of us, visible to us but often we don’t see that they are victims of human trafficking.Trafficked persons can be found in different places, often linked to their type of exploitation, including urban and rural locations, ranging from the most remote areas to residential and city centre locations. In Ireland experience has shown that potential victims of human trafficking may be found in the following areas:  agriculture, grow houses, domestic servitude, restaurants, nightclubs, factories, streets, public transport, street corners, traffic lights etc for begging, brothels, escort agencies, massage parlours and/or private houses or apartments.

The Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit

The Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit (HTICU) operates within An Garda Síochána to combat human trafficking. The unit engages in wide consultation with a number of agencies including Customs, State Agencies such as the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (AHTU), the Health Service Executive (HSE), the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), and NGOs such as Ruhama, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI), the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) and Doras Liumni.

The unit’s role includes the following:

  • Assuming national responsibility for policy development, the co-ordination and implementation of policing methods and the management and co-ordination of investigations within the unit and with divisions throughout the country.
  • Providing advice, support and, where necessary, operational assistance to investigations undertaken at District level.
  • Working in partnership with Operation Quest in the investigation of trafficking in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation.
  • Delivery of training and awareness to An Garda Síochána on all aspects of trafficking in human beings.

Training for members of An Garda Síochána 

The training of our members  in this field is a vital component in combating the crimes of human trafficking.  This crime carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

National and International Conferences expose participants to best practices, roundtables, discussions, workshops and seminars to raise awareness of human trafficking.  Interpol and Europol are specifically pertinent to training for Gardai regarding human trafficking

Please click on the below links to find out more information on our key partners:

Department of Justice and Equality

The Blue Blindfold campaign

Ireland is a member of a G6 European Human Trafficking initiative designed to make the EU a more hostile environment for criminals engaged in the trafficking of human beings. There are five other countries involved in this initiative – UK, Poland, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands.

The purpose of the Blue Blindfold campaign is to raise public awareness of what Human Trafficking is, to discourage demand for the services of victims of sexual and labour exploitation and to help to establish the actual incidence of Human Trafficking in Ireland. 

The Blue Blindfold has a dedicated website (www.blueblindfold.gov.ie) which is provided to encourage people to report suspicions relating to prostitution, brothels and suspected victims of Human Trafficking

All emails are treated anonymously and with strict confidentiality - blueblindfold@garda.ie.