Management and frontline staff who work with child and family agency Tusla will be provided with training by MECPATHS on how to identify child trafficking in Ireland, under an interagency partnership which aims to increase agency capacity in responding to this growing human rights and social justice issue.
The new partnership with Tusla will see MECPATHS facilitate online workshops for child protection and welfare social workers from 17 areas across Ireland as well as staff from Tusla’s Separated Children Seeking International Protection (SCSIP) team and the National Out-of-Hours Service.
MECPATHS, founded in 2013, works to raise awareness around the issue of child trafficking, educating frontline and emerging professionals on human trafficking, with a particular focus on children and how to recognise indicators and report concerns.
Over 500 Tusla management and staff will be trained initially on the types of child trafficking and associated indicators; child trafficking statistics within the global and Irish contexts; Ireland’s legal, statutory and non-profit responses and Tusla’s emerging role as a ‘competent authority’ within the new National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The first phase of training was rolled out over the autumn with additional phases due to be rolled out in 2023.
Government approval was secured by Justice Minister Helen McEntee in July to publish the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences and Human Trafficking) Bill 2022. This now puts the NRM on statutory footing to help identify and support victims of trafficking.
Speaking at the announcement of the partnership, Ann Mara, Education Manager at MECPATHS, said: “According to statistics published by the Department of Justice in 2020 and 2021, no child victims of trafficking were identified during those years in Ireland. This is due to unsuitable referral mechanisms and a lack of frontline responder training.
“To date, only members of An Garda Síochána are permitted to formally identify and refer victims of trafficking into the national referral mechanism. However, the identification of such victims is best placed in the hands of those frontline professionals who are most likely to encounter them.”