Ireland's handling of human trafficking has been downgraded in a new report by the US State Department.
Ireland does not meet the minimum requirement for the elimination of trafficking, according to the report entitled "The 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report".
The report acknowledges that the Irish Government has made significant efforts to eliminate trafficking but that systematic deficiencies exist in the country.
Ireland does not have sufficient victim identification, referrals and assistance, according to the report.
The report also points to a lack of specialized accommodation and service for victims of human trafficking in Ireland.
The Irish Government has not obtained a trafficking conviction since 2013, the report said.
The number of investigations into human trafficking in Ireland fell by almost half in 2019, according to the report, while the Government significantly decreased victim protection efforts in the same year.
However, the State Department acknowledged that Ireland was making significant attempts to meet the minimum standards to eliminate human trafficking.
It noted that the Irish Government had increased funding for relevant NGOs and also introduced more anti-trafficking training for Irish police and immigration officers.
Ireland is now on a tier two watchlist in the US State Department due to its poor handling of human trafficking.
The State Department divides nations into three tiers based on their compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, with the most compliant nations placed in tier one.
Ireland was formerly in tier one but was downgraded to tier two in 2018. It has now been downgraded further to a tier two watchlist.
The State Department has been publishing its Trafficking in Persons Report on a yearly basis for the last 20 years and Ireland has only recently fallen away from the top tier.
Read more: 26 people arrested in human trafficking probe prompted by UK lorry tragedy
The Immigrant Council of Ireland pointed to Ireland's weakness in identifying victims of human trafficking as one of the chief reasons for Ireland's poor ranking.
Dr. Nusha Yonhova, an anti-trafficking expert at the council, told RTÉ News that she was embarrassed but not surprised by Ireland's poor ranking because the Irish Government had made a lack of progress in the field.
She said that the State Department had placed Ireland on a tier two watchlist to consider downgrading it to tier three if there are no improvements in the near future.
The Irish court service has "given very clear signals" that Ireland is not approaching human trafficking in the right way, according to Yonhova, and the Immigrant Council of Ireland called on the new government to place the issue high on its list of priorities.
The Council said that housing victims of human trafficking in direct provision is a massively problematic policy. Direct provision is a hugely controversial means of accommodating asylum seekers in Ireland before their asylum is granted or denied.
The Irish Department of Justice, meanwhile, said that it was disappointed by Ireland's ranking and said that tackling human trafficking had always been a top priority.
The Department told RTÉ that trafficking was a difficult crime to detect and prosecute.
It acknowledged that Ireland had not made a human trafficking conviction since 2013 but said that it had convicted traffickers on associated charges.
Read more: Reports of racist incidents in Ireland doubled in 2019, according to study