Victims of trafficking 'not being detected'
Nearly 80 alleged victims of trafficking are being reported to gardai each year.
Sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking, and women constitute the majority of victims.
The figures come as the authors of a new study recommended that health professionals need training in how to detect victims of sex trafficking in this country.
Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland said sex trafficking within Ireland is a "hidden phenomenon".
Their newly-published study, Sex Trafficking in Ireland from a health care perspective, which appears in the Irish Medical Journal, said there was a real need for awareness-raising and a training programme for health care professionals dealing with sex trafficking.
"Estimation of the prevalence is problematic due to the criminal nature of sex trafficking and its overlap with the related activities of prostitution and illegal immigration," the report notes. "Extreme fear" makes disclosure by a victim "unlikely", it adds.
Although victims of sex trafficking are less likely to use health and social services than non-trafficked sex workers, data from other countries indicates that victims may present to various healthcare settings - within the asylum process, outreach services for prostitution or migrant groups and sexual assault units, the researchers said.
Seventy-eight alleged victims were reported to the gardai in 2010, "and the recorded levels of human trafficking into Ireland have remained at this level for the past four years", the study reveals.
"Victims usually have poor access to healthcare and thus may only present when their medical situation becomes severe or life-threatening," it adds.
The lack of awareness and training for victim identification may exacerbate the under-detection of sex-trafficked victims within the Irish healthcare system, the researchers said, and urged that a comprehensive training exercise should be implemented.