Ireland provides support for victims of human trafficking through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Through this framework, individuals have access to a variety of necessary supports such as accommodation, legal aid and medical services. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) and Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) have called for crucial reforms to be made to the existing NRM framework in regard to housing services for victims. MRCI (2022) explained that the current system does not have the capacity to deal with an increase in victims of trafficking as hundreds of vulnerable individuals from Ukraine are expected to arrive in Ireland in the coming months.
Although, victims can access accommodation through the NRM, the housing crisis in Ireland has made it extremely difficult for victims to move from direct provision measures to private housing. Similarly, a 2020 report published by the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI) discussed how Ireland’s housing crisis has resulted in increased trauma for victims of human trafficking as it makes it harder for individuals to access necessary supports and services. The IHREC stated that providing suitable accommodation for victims remains a chronic problem and further measures should be introduced to tackle current weaknesses. Furthermore, the Irish government needs to make considerable improvements to house victims in gender specific accommodations which have access to various support services rather than direct provision centres. The ICI argues that by placing female victims in mixed-gender accommodation centres, they can be exposed to issues such as discriminatory practices which can have a major negative impact on their recovery. ICI also revealed that staff at accommodation centres are not appropriately trained to support and care for victims. While the Irish government announced plans to begin a pilot accommodation service for victims with charities like Ruhama, this was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In conclusion, there is an urgent need for the state officials to establish appropriate accommodation facilities with access to relevant support systems for victims of trafficking. Furthermore, the Irish government needs to ensure the accommodation centres are established with a gender specific and trauma informed approach to help victims with their recovery and are located in safe spaces to ensure that victims are not at risk of secondary victimisation. Trilateral Research participated in various projects on human trafficking. Of particular interest would be the Survivor’s Engagement project, which sought to include the voices of survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking in the upcoming Modern Slavery Strategy in the UK. The research team on that project found that housing is an integral part that supports recovery and acts one of the key services that victims want in their journey to recovery. As accommodation can usually serve as the first relatively safe and secure space for many victims of trafficking, it is absolutely vital that the Irish government calls for an immediate plan of action that aims to tackle and overcome the current drawbacks of this critical support.