At least one alleged victim of human trafficking has been found in Ireland every week for the past seven years, giving rise to fears that many others go undetected.
Latest figures show 417 people believed to have been trafficked were discovered by or reported to gardaí here between 2009 and 2015, the majority of them women sold into the sex industry.
However, a sizeable number were children and other adults used in begging, criminality, and as slave labour in private homes and businesses.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has restated a pledge to tackle the crime she described as “despicable”, in part by using the public as the eyes and ears of the authorities in helping to identify victims.
Her promise came as she launched the Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking. It replaces the initial plan which covered the years 2009-2012.
Ms Fitzgerald said: “Trafficking of human beings is a crime against humanity which has no place in a modern and civilised society. It undermines the human rights and dignity of the person and requires a response from all of society.
“This second National Action Plan sets out a series of actions which, when pursued together with partners both State and non-State, will bring more perpetrators to justice and free victims from this form of modern slavery,” she said.
“Our experience to date in Ireland has shown that trafficking is not confined to the sex trade and is taking place in a range of legitimate industries under the guise of genuine employment,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
“I want to raise awareness of the issue among the general public and to encourage anyone who suspects that trafficking may be taking place, to report their suspicions to the gardaí.”
Extra efforts are also to be made to prevent rescued people becoming revictimised in the future. The plan says consideration needs to be given to issuing unique identifers to victims to help track their progress and safety.