Authorities in Ireland are being urged by the Council of Europe's group of experts on human trafficking (GRETA) to take further action against human trafficking.

It says improvements are required in the prosecution of human traffickers and in providing specialised shelters and compensation for victims.

In its latest evaluation report on Ireland, GRETA urged Irish authorities to adopt a National Referral Mechanism, which ensures that different agencies are involved in identifying victims of all types of trafficking.

Last October, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), which is Ireland's National Rapporteur on the Trafficking of Human Beings in this country, called for the National Referral Mechanism to be progressed.

The bill containing the National Referral Mechanism was approved by Cabinet last May.

The latest GRETA report noted that the total number of presumed trafficking victims in Ireland fell from 103 in 2017 to 44 in 2021.

Sexual exploitation remained the primary form of exploitation, but it found that the number of people trafficked for labour exploitation - in sectors including fishing, farming, construction, catering and domestic work - grew over the same period.

GRETA said these figures did not reflect the real scale of the phenomenon in Ireland, partly due to the "persisting limitations of the existing procedures for identifying victims".

The report said trafficking for labour exploitation remained under-recognised and under-reported. It said trafficking for criminal exploitation was an area where victims were often not recognised as such.

It pointed out that the number of investigations into human trafficking decreased over the years and the number of prosecutions and convictions was very low.

GRETA also expressed concern that no victim of trafficking had received compensation in the country, either from their traffickers or the state.

It urged the Irish authorities to ensure that trafficking victims are appointed lawyers to represent them in judicial and administrative proceedings, including to claim compensation.

It said the Irish authorities should take further steps to ensure that victims of trafficking are not punished for unlawful activities they were compelled to commit.

Furthermore, the report has called on authorities to intensify efforts to combat trafficking for labour exploitation, including by establishing safe reporting procedures for foreign workers and providing targeted support services.

It has asked authorities to review the Atypical Working Scheme in the fisheries industry in order to ensure that it contained sufficient safeguards against the trafficking and exploitation of fishermen.

It said further awareness-raising and training are also needed to spot indicators of human trafficking amongst children.

The report noted a number of positive developments since its last evaluation of Ireland in 2017.

These include the establishment of a human trafficking stakeholders forum in 2020 - bringing together relevant State departments, agencies and civil society organisations - and the designation of the IHREC as National Rapporteur for human trafficking.