I propose to take Questions Nos. 122 and 142 together.
The stated objective of the European Union is to develop a comprehensive migration policy which covers both legal and illegal migration. The Deputy will find a statement of the Commission's current priorities in combating illegal immigration of third-country nationals in Commission document COM (2006) 402. The Communication addresses nine priority areas and proposes a number of practical and action focused measures. These priorities are:
Co-operation with third countries;
Secure Borders — Integrated management of external borders;
Fight against human trafficking;
Secure travel and ID documents;
Addressing regularisations (the discretionary decision to grant a legal stay on the territory);
Tackling a key pull factor: illegal employment;
Improving exchange of information through existing channels.
These measures are intended to build upon the Hague programme which contains a special emphasis on immigration and asylum and which sets out a five-year programme for closer co-operation in Justice and Home Affairs at EU level from 2005 to 2010.
In December 2005, the European Council adopted the EU Action Plan on best practices, standards and procedures for combatting and preventing trafficking in human beings. The Action Plan is divided under a number of headings:
Co-ordination of EU Action.
Scoping the problem.
Investigating and prosecuting.
Protecting and supporting victims.
Returns and reintegration.
Under the heading of preventing trafficking, the EU Action Plan has three specific objectives:
Addressing the root causes of trafficking;
Raising awareness of the dangers involved in trafficking and publicising successful prosecutions to deter traffickers;
Enabling early identification of victims to prevent exploitation.
There are a number of actions currently being taken by the EU under the Action Plan. A network of contact points in Member States is being established. The first EU Anti-Trafficking Day will take place on 18 October 2007 and both An Garda Síochána and officials of my Department will participate in a Seminar organised by the European Commission on that day examining what steps should be taken next at European level.
The Portuguese Presidency are currently holding a conference in Porto on human trafficking and gender specific issues. The European Commission has prioritised trafficking in human beings prevention projects for funding under the "Prevention of and fight against crime" programme for 2007. These are just some of the actions taking place this year, at EU level, as it would not be possible, by way of parliamentary question, to mention all of them.
The Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings was adopted by the committee of Ministers on 3 May 2005 and opened for signature in Warsaw on 16 May 2005. The Convention is regarded widely as a comprehensive Treaty that effectively focuses on the protection of victims and the safeguarding of their rights. In 2006, the Council of Europe launched a campaign "Human Beings — Not for Sale" to raise awareness about the issue of human trafficking and to promote the widest possible accession to the convention. My officials and An Garda Síochána have actively participated in the campaign and Ireland signed the Convention in April 2007. Developing a timetable for ratification of the Convention will be an early priority for this Government.
My Department will continue to participate in all relevant EU, UN and Council of Europe fora on human trafficking and both my officials and An Garda Síochána will continue to work on a bilateral basis with other governments on both operational and policy development issues. My Department is also participating in the UN Global Initiative to fight human trafficking which is a two year programme launched by the UN earlier this year with the support of the United Arab Emirates.
I am informed by the Garda Authorities that Liaison at an international level between the Garda Síochána and the European / international law enforcement community is part of the approach to the issue of human trafficking taken by An Garda Síochána. Representatives of An Garda Síochána, at senior management level, regularly participate at both European and international meetings to facilitate the exchange of information and best practice between EU Member States in particular, and on a more global basis, with countries of origin of suspected victims of human trafficking, including meetings hosted by Europol, Interpol and Frontex.
Members of An Garda Síochána have attended courses held at CEPOL — European Police College, relating to the subject of "Trafficking in Human Beings", which are targeted at senior police officers who are responsible for prosecution services, countering trafficking cases or organized crime cases, members of lecturing staff in police training and development units, heads of police forces or government officials at Ministerial level, who deal with questions of human trafficking.
As part of the EU AGIS programme the GNIB held a conference in Dublin in November 2005 titled: "Forum to Improve Best Practice in the Prevention, Detection, & Investigation of Trafficking in Human Beings and Examine Best Practice in Fighting and preventing Corruption of Public Figures in the Administration of Immigration Regulations." The conference was funded by the European Commission (Directorate General Justice and Home Affairs) and the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform and was attended by representatives from a number of other EU Member States.
Earlier this month, Operation Pentameter II was launched in London. This is a coordinated campaign of police activity to tackle the trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation within Ireland and the UK. An Garda Síochána and Department officials are working with their British counterparts to ensure that the whole common travel area becomes a hostile environment for those who intend to engage in this nefarious crime. I hope to be in a position to announce further international co-operation on a wider European scale in the coming weeks.
In addition, legislation providing for the criminalisation of trafficking in persons for the purpose of exploitation is expected to be published in the very near future. This legislation will criminalise trafficking in human beings as provided for in EU Council Framework Decision on combating trafficking in persons. The criminal law provisions in other international instruments, including the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings, are also being taken into account in the legislation.
I can also inform the Deputy that it is my intention to make further announcements in relation to the issue of human trafficking later this week.