750,000 predators sit online at any given time waiting for vulnerable children to come into their line of vision. They lie in wait to groom, exploit and traffick these children across countries, borders and continents. A project working out of the village in Clondalkin, the first of its kind in the country, is working to prevent these abuses.

International trends demonstrate the use of hotel and private rental accommodation to facilitate child trafficking operations. MECPATHS (Mercy Efforts for Child Protection Against Trafficking with The Hospitality Sector) was founded by The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy in 2013 to ensure the international trends do not land on Irish shores. Hotels and private accommodation can guarantee the anonymity, the privacy and the discretion which facilitates human trafficking, without the awareness or consent of hotel staff, management and owners.

MECPATHS works closely with the hospitality sector in Ireland; delivering awareness presentations to hotel staff and management and offering support to those who need it to raise consciousness that this is a phenomenon which occurs in every part of the world and Ireland is now amongst those most in need of supported intervention.

Between 2009 and 2016, there were 512 cases of human trafficking reported in Ireland- 143 of these victims were children, this is just a fraction of the reality. “A common misinterpretation of the trends is that children at risk of being trafficked are from elsewhere, that children born into extreme poverty are more at risk of being trafficked and that these realities are so distant from our daily lives in Ireland. This is not the case. Irish children are being exploited here by predators for sexual exploitation. It is a concern for everyone, in today’s digital age” MECPATHS Communications & Awareness Officer comments.

The continuous exploration of media coverage confirms that Ireland is underprepared to respond to the growing trend of human trafficking here at home. The 2018 TIP Report [Trafficking in Persons] (US State Department) has confirmed that Ireland is not meeting the minimum standards required to be recognised as adequately meeting the needs of those trapped in worlds of Human Trafficking.

MECPATHS works to focus on the frontline staff of Irish hotels to offer their free education and advice service. In the past year, MECPATHS has worked closely with PREM Group to design a bespoke online training for their staff and it has been rolled out to over 500 staff to date in Ireland alone, receiving a national CSR award earlier this year, recognising their efforts and impact. PREM Group is an International Hotel Management Company operating over 50 properties across 5 countries. Established in Dublin in 1996, PREM specialise in operating hotels and serviced apartments across Ireland, England, Belgium, France and The Netherlands.

Sarah Marr, HR Manager of PREM Group, reflects “we knew we had to do something to help. MECPATHS were on board with us immediately. With no cost attached to the service, it is something every hotel needs to engage with. It offers protection for everyone and if we can save just one person from sexual exploitation by doing what we do, we will be proud.”

To find out more about MECPATHS, to engage with the service they provide or to register your hotels’ interest, please visit Mecpaths.ie or contact info@mecpaths.ie