With the launch of the Trafficking In Persons Report 2021 imminent, Ireland's government will be anxiously awaiting the news of how the country has fared under international scrutiny. Yearly, the U.S. State Department assesses the performance of countries around the work and allocates a tier ranking. Presently Ireland finds itself ranked as a Tier 2 Watch List country alongside others such as Chad, Pakistan, Mali, Uganda, Sudan, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia. Below these Tier 2 Watch List countries are only 22 others. It is ignominious ranking for Ireland a country that, only years before, occupied a Tier 1 ranking. The situation is made worse when one considers Ireland's international standing: Ireland is presently a member of the UN Security Council and it is the only European Union country to occupy such a low tier. Ireland enjoys the advantage of being economically prosperous, something that cannot be said about many of the countries that have the same Tier 2 Watch List ranking.
The decline in Ireland's ranking is not new.The problems first became apparent in 2018 when the country lost Tier 1 ranking to fall to Tier 2. In 2019, Ireland maintained this ranking. However, in the Trafficking in Persons Report 2020 Ireland's ranking slipped again and the country found itself in the hazardous waters of Tier 2 Watch List. The report describes Tier 1 as the ranking attained by countries whose governments fully meet with the minimum standards of the United States' TVPA (Trafficking Victims Protection Act). Tier 2 counties are those whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards, but it is nonetheless recognised that significant efforts are being made to attain them. Below this is the Tier 2 Watch List ranking. This tier is allocated when countries do not meet the requirements of the TVPA, despite significant efforts, and there are further issues. These issues are:
- "the estimated number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing and the country is not taking proportional concrete actions;"
- "there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year, including increased investigations, prosecution, and convictions of trafficking crimes, increased assistance to victims, and decreasing evidence of complicity in severe forms of trafficking by government officials."
In the Trafficking in Persons Report 2020 Ireland's attempts to comply with the minimum standards was duly noted. However, this was balanced against other considerations. In the assessment of the U.S. State Department, increased efforts had not been made when compared with the previous year. Additionally, deterrence had been weakened by the failure to obtain a human trafficking conviction since a 2013 change in legislation. This, it was assessed, "contributed to impunity for traffickers, and undermined efforts to support victims to testify". As if this wasn't bad enough, additional problems were identified including ones associated with assisting identified victims of human trafficking.