Ireland has been criticised over the very low number of pimps being prosecuted for trafficking women and girls into the country.
A human rights watchdog claimed authorities have also underestimated the true scale of the problem because of gaps in identifying victims.
Greta, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (THB), called on the Government to ensure all victims are identified and given assistance and protection.
It found that despite important steps being taken, including the adoption of anti-trafficking legislation, a comprehensive action plan and the creation of several specialised bodies, more needs to be done.
“There is a need to further involve NGOs and other parts of civil society in drawing up and implementing anti-trafficking policy, including by giving them a formal role in identifying victims,” Greta said in its first evaluation report on Ireland.
“Furthermore, Greta asks the Irish authorities to ensure that accommodation and other services are adapted to the specific needs of victims of trafficking.
“The Irish authorities should also strengthen efforts to tackle trafficking for labour exploitation, as well as improving prevention and protection measures concerning children.
“The report stressed that gaps in the procedure for identifying victims, together with a low conviction rate for trafficking-related offences, may mean that the true scale of the problem is underestimated.”
Hundreds of women and teenage girls are believed to be trafficked in to Ireland every year and forced to work prostitutes, but just 57 cases were reported to gardai in 2011.
Greta found there had been only one conviction under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and three convictions in 2011 under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 and the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993.
There were another eight convictions under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 in 2012, with a further three prosecutions due before the courts and a large file was with the Director of Public Prosecutions during its visit in November 2012.
Elsewhere it found there have been no convictions for trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation.
“The number of prosecutions and convictions for THB is still very low and the length of criminal proceedings is also a matter of concern,” it added.
The watchdog also criticised Government policy of housing suspected victims of trafficking in accommodation centres for asylum seekers and urged it to consider setting up specialised shelters.