Written Answers. - Trafficking in Young Children.

Austin Currie

Question:

531 Mr. Currie asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the procedures which must be gone through when a child is presented at entry points into the State; if he has satisfied himself that such procedures are sufficient to prevent the importation of young children illegally or for illegal purposes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7727/01]

Although no incidents of the type specified by the Deputy have been recorded by the Garda authorities to date, I am acutely aware that the problem of trafficking in human beings, including children, by gangster type syndicates has become a major problem internationally and a significant facet of transnational organised crime.

In so far as arrival at points of entry to the State are concerned, the position is that all persons must be in a position to satisfy an immigration officer of their identity and nationality and, where an immigration officer believes that an adult travelling with a minor may not be the parent or legal guardian of that child, then further inquiries will be made. In addition, there are specific procedures established under the Refugee Act, 1996, which was commenced in full by me on 20 November 2000, and which take account of situations where an unaccompanied minor arrives in the State. In such a case an immigration officer is now required to inform the relevant health board and thereupon the provisions of the Childcare Act, 1991, apply in respect of the child in question. These controls are an important element in the overall efforts of the Garda Síochána to prevent and combat trafficking.

The development of a comprehensive intelligence base and closer co-operation with immigration authorities in other jurisdictions are also essential elements in combating the type of activity to which the Deputy refers and was one of the main reasons the Government approved the setting up of the Garda National Immigration Bureau on 9 May 2000 following consultation with the Garda Commissioner. The bureau has already established effective operational co-operation with immigration and police authorities in other jurisdictions and Garda liaison officers have been assigned to London and Paris for the purpose of interacting with local law enforcement authorities on immigration and trafficking matters. The bureau also liaises closely with carrier companies whose routes have been targeted by traffickers.
From a legislative point of view, the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998, made it an offence to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into, transit through or exit from the State of a child for the purpose of the child's sexual exploitation, or to provide accommodation for such a child while in the State. The penalty on conviction on indictment for that offence is a maximum of life imprisonment, a reflection of the seriousness of this type of crime. In addition, the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act, 2000, targets professional traffickers in human beings by creating an offence of trafficking in illegal immigrants and asylum seekers and providing a framework by which those engaging in such trafficking can be dealt with under the law. The penalty on conviction on indictment for the offence of trafficking under the Act is an unlimited fine or up to ten years imprisonment or both.