Irish Government welcomes launch of programme to raise awareness of human trafficking among worldwide community of nurses

4 July 2019

An Tánaiste, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Justice and Equality have welcomed the publication earlier this week of an information resource to raise awareness of human trafficking among the worldwide community of nurses. The comprehensive booklet was launched at the International Council of Nurses’ Congress in Singapore this week, which was attended by more than 5,000 nurses representing the national nursing bodies of over 120 countries.

An Tánaiste, Simon Coveney T.D., said: “The launch of this project is a significant action to enable the identification of victims of human trafficking across the globe. Human trafficking is a global phenomenon, which is estimated to affect tens of millions of children, women and men worldwide. With one in four of these victims a child, this is one of the most serious human rights abuses of our time.

“The most recent global figures indicate that less than one per cent of all victims are rescued and placed into an official support mechanism. We need to do more internationally to improve this situation. The measure launched by the ICN is an important step towards the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, which urges effective measures to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking. The Government of Ireland will continue to strive nationally and internationally to eradicate this modern form of slavery.”

Research in the UK and US has found that many trafficked victims engage with healthcare services during their period of exploitation. Many victims will have some contact with a nurse, who represent the largest profession within the healthcare sector. Nurses do not only work in formal healthcare settings such as in clinics and hospitals, but also in communities, in emergency responses or in health education settings.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris T.D., welcomed the initiative, saying, “I applaud the work of the International Council of Nurses in launching this booklet to raise awareness of the indicators of human trafficking among its 20 million frontline members. I am particularly proud of the leadership shown by Irish healthcare professionals in bringing this initiative to fruition. I look forward to supporting the rollout of this awareness-raising programme within Ireland.

Minister Harris continued, referencing the work that is done in Ireland to support victims: “I would like to recognise the service provided by HSE’s Anti Human Trafficking Team to the victims of this crime. Victims of trafficking often start out from a position of vulnerability. It is sickening that they are threatened, coerced and abused by their captors in the name of profit. We have an obligation to support their recovery and I am pleased that the HSE provides such a dedicated and compassionate service.”

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan T.D., said: “The existence of human trafficking in Ireland and across the world is a stain on the conscience of humanity. The Irish Government is committed to combatting this crime. In particular, the Garda Commissioner is determined to prosecute the gangs involved in this cruel exploitation and create a hostile environment for their activities.

“Measures to raise awareness among frontline workers is a key factor in improving the identification of victims and I commend the work of the ICN in this regard. I am also committed to further developing our multi-agency approach for victim support and recovery. I look forward to working with colleagues in Government and Irish non-Government actors to achieving these goals.”




Note for Editors:

The booklet launched in Singapore provides advice to nurses on the types of exploitation inflicted on victims and on the forms of control used by the traffickers. It provides information on how to recognise the signs of human trafficking in a person, and a range of health indicators that might trigger a concern. It also provides recommendations on appropriate action should a nurse recognise the hallmarks of trafficking in a patient. The booklet will be published initially in English, Spanish and French.

The project was launched by Cindy Hensley McCain, philanthropist and humanitarian, Professor Annette Kennedy, current ICN President, and Kevin Hyland, Ireland’s representative on the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).

The project leads who oversaw the development of the booklet were Professor Kennedy, who is a former director of professional development with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Professor Thomas Kearns, Executive Director of the Faculty of Nursing & Midwifery RCSI, and Dr Susan Kent, Assistant National Director HSE. All were supported in this project by members of the INMO.


The organisation of national actions against human trafficking is led by the Department of Justice and Equality. The prosecution of the crime is the responsibility of An Garda Síochána, under the direction of the Human Trafficking Investigation and Coordination Unit. Once a victim is identified by a Garda, they are referred into a system of State supports that is coordinated by the HSE.

Further information is available at the Government’s dedicated anti-human trafficking website


[Note: this page was edited on 23 July 2019 to note the support of the INMO and the correct title for Dr Kent.]