Human Trafficking and the Transport Industry

One year ago, Ireland’s first ever human trafficking convictions were handed down in Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court. Two women were convicted of human trafficking young girls into a prostitution ring in the midlands, the first conviction of its type in Ireland.

Since then, Ireland has been internationally commended for its progress in addressing human trafficking. (See recent PILA Bulletin article here.

The then Minister of State for Civil and Criminal Justice, Hildegarde Naughton TD said:

 “Human trafficking is a heinous crime that will not be tolerated in Ireland. We are making intensive efforts to combat human trafficking and bring the traffickers who cruelly exploit vulnerable people to justice. We have also introduced significant measures over the past year to create a more victim-centred approach to identifying and supporting victims, and to raise awareness and provide training.”

The Dept of Justice noted the following measures being taken by Ireland in the last year to address human trafficking:

  • Revising the National Referral Mechanism to make it easier for victims of trafficking to come forward, be identified and access advice, accommodation, and support,
  • Drafting a National Action Plan on Human Trafficking,
  • Training front-line staff in industries such as hospitality, airline and shipping who may encounter trafficked persons,
  • Dedicated accommodation for female victims of sexual exploitation,
  • Criminal justice system support for victims through the implementation of Supporting a Victim's Journey,
  • Awareness campaign in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM),
  • More funding for supporting victims of crime, and increased funding dedicated specifically to supporting victims of trafficking.

The British Embassy in Ireland commissioned a report earlier this year entitled, Exploring Serious and Organised Crime across Ireland and the UK: Towards a Shared Understanding of a Shared Threat produced by Irish think tank, The Azure Forum (The “Report”). The report was commissioned after 39 Vietnamese people suffocated in an airtight shipping container smuggled into Essex, England, in 2019 as part of an international criminal enterprise organised in Ireland. The Report notes Ireland’s attractiveness as a target for human trafficking based on the strength of its air, sea and land transport links. Many organised crime groups and networks treat the island of Ireland as, in effect, a single market for illicit goods and services whilst simultaneously using the different legal and policing jurisdictions to their advantage. Cross-jurisdictional understanding of human trafficking across the island of Ireland is hampered by differing protocols for the collection and analysis of key data across the two jurisdictions of the island of Ireland.

Further afield, organisations such as the US non-profit organisation, Truckers Against Trafficking aim to equip and prepare transport industry workers like truckers to identify potential signs of human trafficking and speak out against them. Users of transport hubs may have better opportunities to spot human trafficking victims and report suspicious activity.

Please see here a Guide to Trucking & Human Trafficking, including tips to help empower and mobilize members of the trucking industry to identify signs of trafficking. 

If you are victim of trafficking, or if have a suspicion that someone else, you should contact An Garda Síochána, who are available to help. 

  • In an emergency please call 999 / 112
  • You can also contact Gardaí
  • At your local Garda station or by telephone 1800 666 111 daily from 9am to 9pm. This freephone number is monitored by trained Gardaí
  • Alternatively you can email your concerns or suspicions to

Every contact with An Garda Síochána will be treated in strict confidence.

Read the full report, Exploring Serious and Organised Crime across Ireland and the UK: Towards a Shared Understanding of a Shared Threat from The Azure Forum here.





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