Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am very pleased to present to this House today the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007. It is a short but important Bill, not only for the criminal offences it will introduce into Irish law but for the very clear message it will send out on our determination to ensure that Ireland does not become a destination or transit point in the evil trade of trafficking in human beings.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to introduce specific criminal offences of trafficking in persons for the purpose of their sexual or labour exploitation or for the removal of their organs. Legislation in the area of human trafficking already in place is largely designed to deal with smuggling of human beings, as contained in the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, and trafficking in children for the purpose of sexual exploitation, as contained in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.

This Bill is a further step in the fight against trafficking in human beings. From the outset, I emphasise that trafficking in human beings is being tackled at several levels. First and most important, because it underpins the other initiatives taking place, is the criminal law. Second are the immigration issues that may be raised when persons are trafficked. Third are the services provided to trafficked persons and the necessary protection which is given to them. Fourth are the Garda operations aimed at apprehending the traffickers and the international co-operation with other police forces and agencies, which is essential to successfully deal with such a transnational crime. Throughout my speech I will refer to the many initiatives that are being taken to provide a holistic approach to trafficking.

In this Bill I propose to deal with the criminal law aspects of human trafficking. The provisions of the Bill are extracted from the General Scheme of the Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons and Sexual Offences) Bill 2006. In addition to trafficking issues, that general scheme also contained provisions relating to the protection of children from sexual exploitation. I have decided to proceed without those provisions to expedite the drafting, publication and enactment of the trafficking provisions.

The provisions protecting children have not been forgotten. They will likely form the basis of further legislation but will be expanded to take account of recommendations in the Report of the Joint Committee on Child Protection. I also intend to bring the legislation underpinning the sex offenders register more into line with that in our neighbouring jurisdictions and to further strengthen the legislation on sexual grooming in the light of continuing developments in technology.

Shortly after my appointment as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform I stated that bringing forward legislation in the area of human trafficking would be a priority for me and I am pleased to now be in a position to do so at such an early date. Creating offences criminalising the trafficking in persons for the purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs will enable the Garda to deal more effectively with the trafficking of human beings into, through or out of the State and to co-operate more fully with other police forces in apprehending the international gangs that are often involved in such trafficking. Human trafficking takes many different forms. It is dynamic and adaptable and, like many other forms of criminal activity, it is constantly changing to defeat efforts by law enforcement agencies to prevent it. The responses to the problem are also rapidly evolving. International co-operation, which is so crucial to the success of most interventions against human trafficking, is gaining new momentum and new co-operation mechanisms are being developed. Recently, I announced further initiatives to deal with other aspects of this phenomenon and I will return to these initiatives later.

Before turning to the detail of the Bill, I wish to make clear that I consider trafficking in human beings an abhorrent crime and a violation of fundamental human rights. It is a crime which involves multiple actors, including recruiters, facilitators of transportation and fraudulent employment opportunities, exploiters and end beneficiaries of so-called goods and services provided and produced by trafficked persons. While most persons' idea of trafficking would be of ruthless international gangs, that is not always the reality. The profits from trafficking in persons are in the same league as profits from drug trafficking and the smuggling of weapons but it is a well established fact that the recruiters are sometimes women who are neighbours, friends or even members of the family of the unfortunatevictim.

This year marks the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade in the former British Empire. Trafficking in persons has been described as a form of modern day slavery and I want to send a clear message. The criminal trading of people, as commodities, for whatever purpose, has no place in a modern Ireland. This form of modern day slavery is an evil crime with no regard by the perpetrators for the human or social consequences. It is known that traffickers exploit the desire of the individual to have a better life. They prey on those who are vulnerable because of poverty or other social reasons, they deceive people into travelling with the promise of a better life. Instead, the victims often find themselves trapped and unable to leave exploitative and abusive circumstances. They become commodities who are moved, bought and sold to maximise profits. It is a multi-billion dollar business. The United Nations and other experts estimate the total market value of illicit human trafficking at $32 billion, and of this an estimated $10 billion is derived from the initial sale of individuals, with the remainder representing the estimated profits from the activities or goods produced by victims of this barbaric crime.

It is a crime that is transnational, almost by definition, and can best be understood in an international context. The European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations have all prepared instruments addressing this issue. The criminal law provisions of the following instruments have been taken into account in drafting this Bill: the EU framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings; the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings; the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.

Ireland was involved in the negotiations on these international instruments and will continue to fulfil its obligations to participate in the activities of many international organisations against human trafficking. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda Síochána are currently participating in meetings of the European Union, Council of Europe, the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe alliance against trafficking and the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre.

The Government is committed to tackling this crime and recognises the need to draw together all the work that is being done across the various Departments and agencies. While there is no evidence of an appreciable human trafficking problem in Ireland, any level of this crime is deplorable. Due to its clandestine and criminal nature, accurate statistics on the magnitude of the human trafficking problem are elusive. The office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons at the State Department in Washington estimates that 800,000 people are trafficked worldwide each year. International experts estimate that some 2.5 million people throughout the world are at any given time recruited, entrapped, transported and exploited. The United Nations office on drugs and crime reports that trafficking in persons, whether for sexual exploitation or forced labour, affects virtually every region of the world. Data taken from the database on human trafficking trends document the trafficking of human beings from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries.

I mentioned that trafficking into Ireland is not a significant problem. However, it is a potential problem and could grow without remedial action. Recent research suggests that a minimum of 76 women were probably trafficked into Ireland in the past seven years. This is 76 too many and is indicative of a small but growing problem. Among the difficulties in calculating the true number of persons trafficked into Ireland are the different definitions used to describe trafficking and confusion in the differences between trafficking and smuggling. The definition of trafficking in the Bill will provide a standard internationally recognised meaning of trafficking in human beings. It can be distinguished from smuggling in persons as follows. Smuggling will always involve illegal border crossings with false or stolen documents. It is always voluntary and is ultimately a crime against the State. Trafficking can involve legal or illegal border crossings or even no border crossings. Documents may also be genuine or forged and will usually be taken from the victim by someone in the trafficking network. Coercion and repeated exploitation are usual with restrictions on and control of the victim's movements. It is a crime against the individual. What trafficking and smuggling have in common is that they are profitable criminal enterprises involving human beings and carried out by criminal networks.

Trafficking offences are difficult to prosecute for some of the same reasons that they are difficult to investigate. Due to the nature of the offence, the frequent need to rely on evidence collected abroad and the potential for victims and witnesses to be traumatised and intimidated, the prosecution of these offences offers new and difficult challenges. However, absence of reliable statistics does not justify inaction in response to the problem and enhanced international collaboration and the development of stronger witness protection measures must be part of any strategy to address these challenges.

Outlining the Government's strategy to deal with human trafficking, I recently announced other measures being taken to tackle this sordid crime. It is necessary to adopt a holistic approach to the issue and deal with human trafficking comprehensively. A new high level group on combating trafficking in human beings is being established. This group is tasked with presenting to me the most appropriate and effective response to dealing with trafficking in human beings. The group will consist of representatives of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Garda Síochána and other Departments and offices who have contributions to make to the national response. The committee will decide on the most appropriate way to engage constructively with the NGOs and other interested parties to ensure the most effective response to this crime. The NGO community will have an important role to play, particularly in the provision of services to victims.

A national action plan to combat trafficking in human beings will be drafted by the high level group. It is envisaged that the plan will be drafted under four main headings; prevention of trafficking and awareness raising, prosecution of traffickers, protection of the victim and the response to child trafficking. The key goal of the national action plan will be that Ireland has the appropriate legislative and administrative structures in place to allow for the adoption or ratification of all relevant international instruments. Last week, on the first EU day against trafficking in human beings, my Department launched a public consultation process to obtain the views of thepublic on what should be included in the action plan.

It is also my intention to include provisions in the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007 which will strengthen the protections available to victims of human trafficking. In particular, it is my intention to provide the necessary framework whereby a victim of trafficking can be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State. It is intended that this period will allow the victim time to heal and recover from his or her experience and also the opportunity to escape the influence of those who engage in human trafficking. In addition, this period will allow the victim time to come to a decision on whether he or she wishes to participate in any criminal proceedings in the matter and, in circumstances where he or she so wishes, a further period of residence in the State will be granted to enable him or her to do so.

The Garda National Immigration Bureau will continue to deploy whatever resources are necessary to counteract the problem of human trafficking. That office and my Department are co-operating with the UK agencies on Operation Pentameter 2, which was launched earlier this month in London. This is a co-ordinated campaign of law enforcement activity to tackle the trafficking of human beings for sexual exploitation into the UK. Due to the land border and the common travel area, co-operating with and contributing to such operations makes practical sense. Officers from the Garda Síochána and officials from my Department sit on the operation's gold command team as observers and have developed new contacts throughout the policing and NGO community in the UK.

The Garda Síochána continues to fully co-operate with the UK Human Trafficking Centre. The centre, which is the UK law enforcement response, is quickly becoming a centre of excellence. This year, officers from the centre have participated in the training of more than 100 gardaí in issues relating to human trafficking and victim identification and care.

Ireland has been invited to be part of a European G6 initiative against human trafficking. This initiative, launched last week, is a co-ordinated international campaign of activity to tackle the trafficking of human beings. Six European countries are participating, namely, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland. The initiative is supported by Europol, Interpol and Eurojust. It is a multi-strand operation marrying strategic policy development with a period of operational policing enforcement activity. The strands of the initiative include, intelligence gathering, awareness raising, law enforcement operational activity and victim protection. Ireland will lead the strand on awareness and will host a meeting of the partner countries in Dublin in January next year. This initiative is designed to ensure the EU becomes a more hostile environment for criminals engaged in trafficking. It is through initiatives like this, involving practical co-operation between member states of the EU and, Operation Pentameter II which is based on co-operation between the UK and Ireland, that we learn more about the problem of human trafficking in the European Union. This will help us to develop the necessary domestic structures to ensure that human trafficking does not become a substantial problem here.

I would like now to briefly outline to the House some of the main provisions. Section 2 is a definition section. The terms "exploitation", "labour exploitation", "sexual exploitation" and "trafficks" are given meanings based on what is required or intended by terms used in the international instruments referred to.

Section 3 creates an offence for the trafficking of a child for the purpose of the child's exploitation. "Exploitation" in this section does not include sexual exploitation which was addressed by way of amendment to section 4 of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. This section criminalises persons who traffick children for the purpose of labour exploitation or the exploitative removal of their organs. The causing of an offence or an attempt to commit an offence is also criminalised. The section provides for a maximum penalty of unlimited fine and-or life imprisonment on conviction on indictment for committing any of the offences in the section.

Section 4 substitutes new provisions into the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. It provides a new definition of sexual exploitation which is more in line with the definition of sexual exploitation of adults in section 2 and defines "child" for the purposes of the section as a person under 18 years of age. Under the 1998 Act, a child was defined as being under 17 years of age. Raising the age is in line with international norms and is also required by the international instruments on trafficking.

Section 5 proposes the creation of an offence in respect of trafficking in persons aged 18 years or over for the purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of organs. Currently, there is no specific legislation protecting adults. A person involved in trafficking would invariably commit other serious offences including, rape, assault, abduction and false imprisonment. The wording in this section closely follows the wording in the EU framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings which in turn is closely aligned to the wording in the UN protocol which seeks to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children and supplements the convention against transnational organised crime and the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings.

The main difference between section 5 and sections 3 and 4 is that while children cannot consent to being trafficked, older persons can. The international instruments recognise this and, for on offence of trafficking in adults to take place there must be threats, the use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, an abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or, of giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of the person having control over another person. The concept of adults consenting to being transferred from one jurisdiction to another is controversial but we must accept that adults can give a valid consent and in some cases, as I mentioned already, there is confusion between trafficking and smuggling.

This section places mentally impaired persons in the same position as children who are trafficked; consent is not an issue. The definition of mentally impaired is the same as that contained in the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 1993. This definition is used generally in criminal law provisions, particularly those that protect mentally impaired persons against sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.

Section 5 also includes the creation of an offence for selling, offering for sale or purchasing a person. This is not a requirement of any of the international instruments and, while not confined to trafficked persons, it acknowledges that persons can be sold and purchased many times whether en route to or in the destination country resulting in repeated suffering for the trafficked person. A similar offence in section 3 relates to the selling or purchasing of children. A person found guilty of any offence under section 5 is liable to a maximum penalty of an unlimited fine and-or life imprisonment. The severe penalties for these offences are an indication of how seriously the Government considers the crime of human trafficking.

Section 7 deals with jurisdiction. Ordinarily, Irish courts accept jurisdiction for offences committed within the jurisdiction. International instruments call for wider jurisdiction provisions, some mandatory, some voluntary. The provisions contained in section 7 are based on the jurisdictions contained in the Sexual Offences (Jurisdiction) Act 1996. We automatically accept jurisdiction when an offence is committed in the State, including on ships or aircraft registered in the State. We are also, under this legislation, accepting jurisdiction where an Irish citizen or person ordinarily resident in the State is alleged to have committed a trafficking offence abroad or where a trafficking offence is alleged to have been committed in another country against an Irish citizen or a person ordinarily resident in the State.

Sections 8 and 9 contain standard provisions regarding proceedings relating to offences committed outside the State and double jeopardy. Section 10 provides for exclusion of members of the public from proceedings. Trafficked persons can be vulnerable and traumatised and the traffickers and their criminal associates may wish to harm them or members of their families or prevent them from giving evidence. This provision will give a judge power to exclude from the court persons, other than officers of the court, directly connected with the proceedings or other persons as the judge may determine. This will ensure a lack of publicity surrounding these cases. Section 11, which is another protective measure, provides for a guarantee of anonymity of alleged victims of trafficking unless the judge fully or partially waives the anonymity in the interests of justice. Breach of this section could have serious consequences for the alleged victim. I consider that any offence under this section should be triable on indictment with a maximum penalty on conviction of an unlimited fine and-or ten years imprisonment.

Section 12 contains another protective measure for alleged victims. An amendment to the Criminal Evidence Act 1992 will allow an alleged victim of trafficking to give evidence through a live television link with the leave of the court in the case of adults from within the State or abroad. Section 13 provides for amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001. Some of these are technical in nature while others are important for the smooth operation of that Act. An important amendment raises the maximum penalty for non-compliance with the notification obligations in that Act, the sex offenders register as it is more usually known. Failure by a person so obliged to notify the Garda of his or her address, is an offence with a maximum penalty on summary conviction of a fine of €1,905 and-or 12 months imprisonment. The proposal in this section raises the penalties ensuring that the offence can be tried on indictment. As an arrestable offence, it will allow the Garda to arrest, on the spot, a person they know not to have complied with the notification requirements.

The section also gives power to probation and welfare officers to prosecute persons who fail to comply with the conditions attaching to an order for post-release supervision. These provisions requested by An Garda Síochána and the probation and welfare service, have been included to ensure smooth running of the Act in respect of notification requirements and post-release supervision. The amendment to the Bail Act at section 14 adds the offences created in the Bill to the Schedule of that Act. This means they are serious offences for the purpose of that Act.

I mentioned earlier that there has to be an holistic approach to the challenges presented by the international trafficking gangs. This Bill deals with one response to the challenge — the criminal law response. The offences are comprehensive, going beyond the requirements of the international instruments but retaining all the essential elements of the meanings given to the terms trafficking, sexual exploitation and labour exploitation contained therein. This is important in terms of our being in a position to ratify the instruments and for international co-operation.

On enactment of this Bill, we will be in full compliance with the EU framework decision on trafficking. I hope I have adequately explained the other initiatives, legislative, administrative and operational, being taken in tandem with this Bill in order to comprehensively tackle any existing manifestations of trafficking in this country and to prevent any proliferation in trafficking. As soon as progress is made on the administrative initiatives we will be in a position to ratify the UN protocol. We will, of course, first have to ratify the parent convention against transnational organised crime. Also, with the administrative response in place, ratification of the Council of Europe trafficking convention can take place as soon as the immigration, residence and protection Bill is enacted.

I look forward to a positive debate. As the Bill is a crucial part of my response to the cruel trade of trafficking in human beings, I have no hesitation in commending it to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation. Although it has been a long time in coming it is a positive development and I warmly welcome it.

Last March saw the 200th anniversary of the end of the transatlantic slave trade. While the obvious trade may have been abolished two centuries ago, underground modern slave trading is being practised today in almost every country. The slave trade is now known as human trafficking and ranks with drugs and arms trafficking as one of the most lucrative criminal activities. It is estimated that €6,400 million per annum is generated in the initial trade itself.

The sole purpose of the practice is exploitation and abuse. The majority of persons who find themselves being trafficked are destined for the sex industry where they are forced into prostitution. Some are even trafficked to supply human organs. It is estimated that between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are moved across international borders each year. According to the United States State Department office to monitor trafficking in persons, 80% of those trafficked are women and girls and up to 50% are children, many of whom are forced into prostitution. Almost every city, town and village in eastern and central Europe has had some of its girls and women disappear and trafficked abroad for use and abuse. They have become pawns in the business of money and sex. Human trafficking is a growing problem within the EU, with more than 100,000 people trafficked across borders each year. Since 2004, as many as 330 children are known to have been trafficked into the United Kingdom through various routes, but experts feel this is only the tip of the iceberg. This is a growing business and Ireland is a target country.

Human trafficking is not merely a matter of numbers. It is about human beings, including children, being subjected to unspeakable perversion daily. Victims of trafficking suffer physical, sexual and psychological trauma. Frequently, they contract sexually transmitted diseases, having been forced into the sex industry. We must add to this rape, physical assault, nightmares, insomnia, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse and even suicide and murder.

While this may be a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland, the practice of trafficking first came to public consciousness with the tragic events in Wexford and Waterford in December 2001, which culminated in the death of eight people trapped inside a freight container. Two centuries ago, there were slave ships but then, at least, everyone knew what those slave ships were and what they were doing. Now, trafficking is much more covert. A trafficked child could be sitting next to one on a commercial ferry crossing or flight and one would have absolutely no idea.

Ruhama is an organisation that provides support services to women involved in prostitution and other forms of commercial exploitation. The vast majority of the 132 women it had helped up to the end of 2006 came from eastern European countries such as Albania and Romania. Other regions of origin include South America, Asia and Africa, where one fifth of those being trafficked originate. The International Organisation for Migration has assisted women victims of trafficking, including children, to return voluntarily from Ireland to their countries of origin, including Romania, Moldova, Croatia, Brazil, Nigeria, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is reasonable to assume that many more times this number of trafficked women have entered the country. The difficulty is that they are largely invisible. They are kept behind closed doors in apartments, brothels and massage parlours. It is impossible to put an accurate figure on this illegal trade as victims often remain unseen and the criminal gangs who operate as traffickers use coercive tactics, such as constantly moving women around the country, threats or actual physical violence and threats of deportation. Early this month it was reported that the Garda is investigating a number of cases of forced marriage involving migrant children as young as 12 years. The young girls were, typically, trafficked into the country and coerced into marrying older men from migrant communities.

Ireland has also been pinpointed as a major route for trafficking children, doomed to a life of slavery or prostitution in Britain. Traffickers will always find the weakest link and reports have highlighted the fact that in Ireland they have discovered one of the easiest ways to the United Kingdom. A recent BBC documentary interviewed a trafficker who admitted smuggling children through Rosslare into the United Kingdom. It is not only the UK media who have exposed this issue in Ireland. Last year, our own "Prime Time" highlighted evidence of young people being illegally trafficked into the country and forced to work in the sex industry, suffering serious physical and sexual abuse.

To date, neither the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 nor the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 have resulted in a successful prosecution for the crime of trafficking, although individuals have been arrested and charged. This is in contrast with other countries which have had successful prosecutions. The problem lies with the present legislative code which is not strong enough to facilitate successful convictions. Therefore, this legislation is very welcome and a positive step forward as it will, for the first time, impose strict penalties upon those involved in the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of people where coercion or force are involved, particularly for the purposes of labour or sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking is not only an issue of organised crime. We must take into full account the vulnerability of the victims. The structures must be in place to ensure that the Garda act with sensitivity and recognise them as victims and not just as witnesses to crime. At present there is no clear policy or guidelines as to what happens to women who have been identified as having been trafficked for sex. A purely criminal law response will not deal with the issue of human trafficking and we must address the issue of victim protection and assistance.

The Minister stated that the Bill will "enable the State to comply with the relevant victim protection provisions in the Council of Europe Convention". However, he failed adequately to address the fact that the convention is very comprehensive on protection provisions and explicitly stipulates that many of the provisions for protection are not only necessary but mandatory. This fundamental issue is completely ignored in the legislation. The Minister also stated that, in the context of the treatment of victims, it is his intention that a framework will be put in place whereby a victim of trafficking can be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State and also in circumstances where he or she wishes to participate in any criminal proceedings. What does this mean? A framework does not have any legal basis. At present, protection of victims is ad hoc, sometimes offered by non-governmental organisations and sometimes by the Garda National Immigration Bureau on a case by case basis. There is, however, no co-ordinated multi-agency response to assist victims of trafficking.

Last week's report by NUI Galway highlighted one case of a woman who was found by gardaí in a private brothel in Sligo. She was believed to have been trafficked and was brought to Mountjoy jail. She was the one criminalised. The Bill is silent on this fundamental issue. There is a very real danger that the Bill will criminalise the victims unless clear protections are included in the Act. For the first time, the Government is being tested on its commitment to integration. I welcome the appointment of a Minister of State with responsibility for integration. However, the Bill includes nothing to deal with the issues of victims or integration. The Government has failed its first test.

This is important if the public is to support the sympathetic treatment of victims of trafficking but also for the victims themselves, whose self-esteem is low enough without being branded as freeloaders, so that their claims are taken seriously. By adopting a sensible and practical application of a temporary residency system with clear qualifying criteria, abuse of such a system should not follow. Without these protections clearly and expressly enshrined in the Bill for victims, they will not come forward to the Garda authorities. This is fundamental to securing convictions against those directly involved in this trade.

Even without the possibility of successful prosecutions, the NUI Galway report found that of the 76 women who had been trafficked into Ireland for the purposes of sexual exploitation between 2000 and 2006, 36 had no recent contact with support agencies, 12 remained in the asylum system and ten were granted leave to stay in Ireland or were given refugee status. It is imperative that these victims are not viewed as illegal immigrants who should be sent home as soon as prosecutions are secured. If the Government does this, it will further exploit these people. While permanent residency in this country cannot and should not be guaranteed because it would seriously compromise any successful prosecution, a balance must be struck.

First, they must be recognised as victims who need our support and assistance. It should be remembered our citizens have created the demand for this trade in the majority of instances. Second, Ireland has signed up to EU Council Directive 2004/81/EC on granting temporary residence permits to trafficked victims. The objective behind this is to ensure a period of recovery and support before consideration is given to sending that person back to his or her home country. Third, international conventions clearly and unambiguously state trafficking legislation should provide for victim protection measures, not immigration regulation. Fourth, the State should grant immediate humanitarian visas for child victims, in line with a call by UNICEF.

I refer to the gut-wrenching practice of child trafficking and, in particular, the care of victims in this country once they come to the attention of authorities. Correspondence between the HSE and the Department of Health and Children in 2005 stated that the executive, which is responsible for separated children seeking asylum, believed the majority of separated children coming into care had been trafficked into the country. The damning indictment of our present system is that more than 250 separated children had gone missing from HSE accommodation over the previous four years. It must be assumed that some of these children have been trafficked. In a Swedish case study, which illustrates the link between vulnerable separated children and trafficking, a total of 50 Chinese separated children went missing from accommodation centres. However, following the arrest of two Chinese nationals on trafficking charges, no Chinese child has arrived unaccompanied to Sweden.

Earlier radio news bulletins reported on the detection of a child trafficking ring in Holland, which involved 19 arrests of suspected traffickers in Holland, Spain, Belgium, Britain, the US and Ireland. The Garda and other EU police authorities are to be commended on their action regarding this ring. However, these children were sent to Amsterdam with fake documentation and told to apply for asylum. It is clear the asylum process in the European Union is being used as a mechanism of abuse and this issue needs to be addressed. I reiterate UNICEF's comments in this regard. Having applied for asylum, young girls are then moved from care centres in the UK and Sweden — and Ireland, according to anecdotal evidence — and forced into prostitution. They have been found on the streets in France, Italy, Spain and Holland. This is a serious abuse of the rights of children and it must be examined and addressed.

Due to the covert nature of trafficking for prostitution, it is increasingly difficult to make contact with victims, many of whom fear imprisonment or deportation. The Garda is at the coalface in confronting this illegal practice. Its officers are the key group as they are likely to meet the victims of this trade first hand and it is imperative they are given the resources and training to effectively deal with victims. I hope the Minister was not paying lip service to this issue in his contribution and resources are provided for the Garda. Time and again, when the lack of proper equipment and basic training for the Garda is raised, it is passed off that the force has the resources available and it is a matter for the Garda Commissioner. However, resources are not delivered to ensure the best equipped and trained police force.

In tackling trafficking as a crime, the Garda must be equipped with clear and practical laws and resources and, most important, receive comprehensive training informed by the experiences of police in other jurisdictions and by groups working with victims of trafficking in Ireland. Ireland must move from a position where those involved in trafficking are engaged in low risk, high profit crime to one in which they engage in high risk, low profit crime. It must be ensured Ireland and the EU become a harsh environment for traffickers.

Human trafficking, which is the world's third biggest crime after arms and drugs, in turn, fuels other criminal activities such as money laundering, drug trafficking and document forgery. That is why we in Ireland cannot address this issue in isolation. The issue of forged documentation must be dealt with. The media reported yesterday that a new border system will be introduced in this jurisdiction and Britain, which will mean people travelling by air and sea between both jurisdictions will be required to carry passports so that information regarding their travel plans and movements is available to the authorities. However, that will fall flat in on its face similar to the present system because of the use of false Irish passports and driving licences and the poor quality of official documentation, particularly driving licences. Four years ago the then Minister for Transport, Deputy Seamus Brennan, announced he would introduce a watertight system for driving licences but nothing has happened in this regard. Anyone can purchase a false licence for €10 or €15 and it is farcical to think it is a secure form of identification. The Government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this issue.

Passports issued through the passport office in Dublin are different from those issued by Irish embassies. Those issued by embassies are of an inferior quality and they are open to forgery. With today's technology, I cannot understand why we cannot ensure the same quality of passport issued by the Passport Office in Molesworth Street is issued by our embassies. That is leading to abuse and the forging of documentation.

Also related to forged or false documentation, is the issuing of PPS numbers by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. Officials in the Department do not have the available technology to identify false documentation and they have very poor training in spotting such documentation. We are literally doling out these PPS numbers, which give people access to employment and State services. Why are we allowing such a significant loophole to exist within the Irish system?

The objective behind the introduction of PPS numbers in the first instance was to address the abuse of the social welfare system. By allowing false documentation to be used, we are facilitating the gross legal abuse of our social welfare and other systems in the country. This cannot continue, and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has a responsibility to ensure this practice is tackled and eradicated once and for all. It is making a farce of PPS numbers.

Returning to cross-border co-operation, in 2006 a British House of Commons committee report claimed that Northern Ireland is being used as a back door for smuggling migrants into the Republic of Ireland and Britain itself. It is therefore imperative we build on the close co-operation currently existing between the PSNI and the Garda Síochána. To effectively combat human trafficking, authorities must constantly improve their knowledge of what is going on, where it is taking place and how it is proceeding.

We must have a co-ordinated approach, both North-South and east-west. The very nature of international organised crime requires such a response on a transnational level. This type of co-operation will not be helped by the Government's recent decision to opt out of closer co-operation with other EU police forces. Traffickers will be assisted by the exclusion of Ireland from tough new Europe-wide anti-crime measures.

Ireland has a major interest in working with other member states in tackling cross-border crime in the European Union, including the appalling crimes of child and people trafficking, which clearly affects this country.

That includes the United Kingdom, which the Deputy referred to in his speech.

It is very important we co-operate with everybody.

I said we needed co-operation North-South and east-west.

My party has been very responsible on that issue.

If the UK authorities jumped into the River Shannon, should we jump in after them?

We must worry about this jurisdiction. That is our responsibility and our competency within this House.

That is correct.

We were given many reasons for not being able to act in a certain way because the UK was going a particular way and we had a common travel area. We are now being told that common travel area will be virtually abolished, according to media reports. There is no excuse for not having closer co-operation. We have back-up systems and vetoes in place if something comes through those proposals which we are not happy to accept. There is a fall-back system and the protections are already there.

The Garda Síochána and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform have been very proactive on the issue to date but this takes it one step further. I believe it to be the wrong decision. I understand it may exclude Ireland from new measures which have already been signed up to, including a key European border management database crucial to fighting the illicit trafficking trade.

Trafficking is an international problem which requires an international solution so we must urgently embrace EU measures to combat crime. According to recent reports and media coverage, Ireland is seen as a soft touch for trafficking and our coastline is wide open to smugglers. The Garda Síochána lacks both the technical resources and manpower to seriously combat organised crime. Closer co-operation and the sharing of expertise and intelligence with our fellow member states is essential if we are to seriously reduce crime, including the trafficking of people into or through this country.

Smuggling is not dealt with in this legislation, nor should it be. However, there has been no conviction under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 or the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. We must again consider the smuggling of people into this jurisdiction. It is unacceptable that we have not had prosecutions in this particular area, so I ask the Minister to examine what can be done to strengthen the legislative framework and ensure the Garda has resources to deal with the matter on the ground. Clearly that is not happening now. There is no doubt, either with me or in the Minister's Department, that illegal smuggling is happening in this jurisdiction and throughout the European Union. Why have we not been able to gain convictions?

I wish to discuss section 13 of the Bill, which deals with a sex offenders' register. I welcome this development as our sex offenders' register is failing. I hope this provision will help to address the matter with regard to those who have been convicted in this jurisdiction.

There have been numerous instances of people convicted outside this jurisdiction taking up residency in this country but who are not on the register. There was a case in my constituency a number of years ago involving an individual convicted in the UK who was providing computer lessons to children in this jurisdiction in a private capacity. That should not be allowed to happen.

On Committee Stage I also wish to consider the media aspect. I accept the Minister's points on the media and confidentiality, which are sacrosanct. If we are to eradicate these criminal activities, it is important that the public be made aware of them through increased media exposure.

There is provision in other legislation which tends to get the balance right, such as the Criminal Law (Rape)(Amendment) Act 1990. The Minister should reconsider the matter with a view to ensuring as much information as possible gets out while at the same time maintaining protection for victims. We can examine the matter on Committee Stage.

This legislation is a positive step but it is only the first step. It does the very minimum to address this appalling practice. The Government still has to ratify the international treaties on trafficking that it has signed up to. The Minister has also announced the establishment of a new high-level group on combating trafficking in human beings, which is being established to co-ordinate Ireland's efforts in the area.

Why are non-governmental organisations like Ruhama, which are working directly with victims, not part of this group? This is essential in order to ensure the realities of what is happening on the ground influence the agenda of this group. One of its key goals is to produce a national action plan, outlining the appropriate legislative and administrative structures to be put in place to allow for ratification of all relevant international instruments. Yet another report from the Government represents a means to place this important issue on the long finger.

The Government has brought forward the legislation to make human trafficking illegal. However, it has not provided the resources, legal supports or protections for victims to ensure we can adequately stem the flow of this putrid trade. Now that we have had the window-dressing, let us see real action to show the true colour of the Government's commitment.

I commend the Bill to the House.

The Bill relates to slavery. Trafficking people for the purpose of exploitation used to be called slavery — that was its definition. I am sure many people who have not thought about this subject or who live in the kind of environment or social setting in which they never encounter it will be shocked to learn that the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007 is designed to combat what is, in effect, a modern version of slavery. If people are of the opinion that slavery was a phenomenon that ended in the 19th century, all they need do is read this morning's news headlines relating to the story to which Deputy Naughten referred regarding an international ring engaged in the business of selling young women into sexual slavery being busted. We know that the women concerned, some of them girls in their teens, are being sold into sexual slavery as a result of their vulnerability, the circumstances that obtain in their countries of origin or the simple fact that they want to make better lives for themselves. Some young people who attempt to flee poverty or oppression or simply want to improve the conditions in which they live fall into the clutches of the lowest form of criminals, namely, those who are prepared to grow wealthy from trafficking these individuals into prostitution.

Ireland is not blameless in this regard. Those who hanker after the image of the island of saints and scholars must be aware that the latter is not the reality which obtains today. The Minister's contribution was interesting in that regard. In it, he dealt with a great deal more than is contained in the Bill. He was at pains to indicate that the legislation was merely an attempt to deal with this issue from the point of view of the criminal law and that it did not purport to do more than this. However, he set out to do a good deal more. He has described the issue we are addressing and outlined its frightening scale, instanced the international instruments that obtain in this area, most of which we have not ratified, and indicated the steps he intends to take to enable us to ratify them outside the context of the Bill. Ireland is naked in the context of its preparedness to combat this phenomenon in so far as it touches upon our jurisdiction. There seems to be no doubt but that it does do so.

Young women are being trafficked into Ireland for the purposes of prostitution. Some of them are also being trafficked here for the purposes of forced labour. I do not call the circumstances relating to domestic service that have been described to me in connection with a couple of cases as anything other than forced labour. I refer to young women who find themselves in domestic settings where they are grossly exploited in terms of working hours, conditions, etc. I do not, however, make any moral equivalence between cases of that nature and the main thrust of the Bill, which is to deal with the matter of criminal trafficking for exploitation purposes. I accept that the selling of young women into the sex industry is a matter of an entirely different character.

As I understand it, the nature of prostitution in Ireland has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Organisations and experts working with women who find themselves in these circumstances have indicated that the position has changed dramatically during that time. Up to 20 years ago, the majority of women who walked the streets operated for themselves or even if they owed allegiance to pimps — surely the lowest form of life — their activities were not connected to international crime. Where they did work for pimps, there were usually no connections to the network of global crime. At the time to which I refer brothels in this country were an exception and it would have been extremely rare to encounter non-national women in the industry.

Deputy Naughten referred to the work being done by organisations in this area, particularly Ruhama which works directly with women trapped in the sex industry. Ruhama believes the sex industry has become highly organised in recent years and is linked to the global crime network. The Minister's remarks seem to bear out that assertion. He describes the nature of this abhorrent criminality and the scale of the industry. It will be mind-blowing for most law-abiding citizens to learn that, as the Minister stated:

The United Nations and other experts estimate the total market value of illicit human trafficking at $32 billion, and of this an estimated $10 billion is derived from the initial sale of individuals, with the remainder representing the estimated profits from the activities or goods produced by victims of this barbaric crime.

That is a shocking indictment of the scale of this international criminality. The Minister also stated:

The office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons at the State Department in Washington estimates that 800,000 people are trafficked worldwide each year. International experts estimate that some 2.5 million people throughout the world are at any given time recruited, entrapped, transported and exploited. This is abuse on a horrific scale and surely calls on the international community to effectively organise itself in the attempt to combat this criminality.

I spoke about the domestic sex industry and how it has changed in recent years. Of course, information technology is a major contributing factor in that new methods of communication have replaced street walking, as was the traditional way of making contact with clients. Mobile phones, not to mention Internet advertising, make it easier for pimps and procurers to operate and exploit the young women over whom they have control.

What was always, by definition, a very secretive industry has become largely invisible to the busy, law-abiding citizen going about his or her business in this city and other cities and towns throughout the country. It is now virtually invisible, which is why I wonder about the statistics advanced by the Minister. I know that when he quoted the figure of 76 women believed to have been trafficked in recent years, he was referring to the research by Dr. Eilís Ward from the Department of Political Science and Sociology in the National University of Ireland, Galway, and Dr. Gillian Wylie from the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College. This research only came into my possession today.

The Minister is accurately quoting from this research because that is what it says in its findings. However, that figure is contested by, for example, Ruhama, which speaks about directly knowing 200 women in these circumstances and having assisted a good proportion of them. Ruhama says that the 101 odd women with whom it has been in contact and who found themselves in these circumstances say that they know five or six other women in similar circumstances. There is some basis for believing that this is only the tip of the iceberg and that because of the invisibility of the sex industry, it is probable that the figures are more serious than those quoted in the research by the two academics referred to by me.

Ruhama, which works with people afflicted in these circumstances, admits that it is a small-scale agency which is not particularly well resourced. It probably cannot meet the expectation that it penetrate every murky corner of this sordid business. The problem is probably more serious than the figures used today suggest.

We know that most of the women being trafficked are very young, often in their late teens, and that they operate from brothels and private apartments in this city and elsewhere throughout the country. It is fair to say that people and organisations working with the victims of this international crime are broadly welcoming of the Bill introduced to the House today. I join in that welcome and am glad to see the Bill being brought forward. However, everybody who has studied the phenomenon says that one cannot deal with it through the criminal law alone and that this will not meet our obligations under the international instruments or provide the redress that might be expected in a civilised jurisdiction for the young women who find themselves in the grasp of this industry.

The Minister seemed to acknowledge that in his address to the House today. While I welcome the fact that the Minister has gone out of his way to put a comprehensive description of what we are dealing with on the record of the House and to set out a number of measures that he intends to take, it must be said that the area we are addressing is relatively narrow and many people attempting to assist women trapped in this industry will be less than satisfied unless the Minister can give us a commitment that the various matters outside the Bill addressed by him will be brought forward within a reasonable timeframe.

The Minister said it is intended that a framework will be put in place whereby a victim of trafficking can be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State. What kind of framework is contemplated by him? Does it have a statutory basis? Is it purely a charter of best practice or will it be underpinned by legislation? Many people outside this House want answers to questions like that.

The Minister has given undertakings that some of the critical matters not dealt with in the Bill will otherwise be legislated for. Committee Stage will give us an opportunity to test that. It is not entirely clear from the Minister's script how soon we are likely to see such measures and I am not persuaded that the protection of the victim ought to be the subject of another Bill. Why should these issues be dealt with in the promised immigration and residence Bill? This is not an aspect of immigration under any conventional definition of that word. It is an entirely different issue concerning the exploitation of young, vulnerable girls who are trafficked across the world, some of them into this jurisdiction. The organisations say that any legislation to effectively deal with this must be victim centred and that we ought to address this key issue in this Bill.

The Minister concedes that the passing of this Bill will not enable us to ratify, for example, the UN protocol or the parent convention against transnational organised crime. If one looks at the standards set in the Council of Europe trafficking convention, one can see that this cannot be ratified by the Government until the immigration and residence Bill is enacted. We are not coming to this legislation with a great track record. If the work has been done in preparing what, at first glance, seems to be a reasonably comprehensive Bill to deal with the criminal law dimension of this issue, the opportunity is being passed up to take the holistic approach that the Minister argues for in his script but which is not present in the legislation before the House.

The Bill, for example, does not deal with the protection of victims, nor does it incorporate the standards set down by the Council of Europe convention. I am assured by expert opinion that law enforcement can only be effective in this area if there is adequate protection of victims. There needs to be provision for a period of recovery and reflection. As Members will be aware, under that convention, 30 days is the recommendation. Access to temporary residence permits of up to six months is deemed to be necessary. There is a requirement to recognise that repatriation in those circumstances ought to be voluntary. The availability of legal aid ought to be specified.

I appreciate that we will get an opportunity on Committee Stage to tease out some of these issues but it is difficult to deal with them when the Department and the Minister seem to have set their faces against anything other than a criminal law solution in this Bill. Despite paying lip service in the text to the need for a more holistic approach and given that all the expert opinion and advice of organisations working with women who find themselves entrapped and enslaved in this sordid industry is to take that holistic approach, the Minister and the Department seem to have set their faces against that. That is regrettable.

When the Minister replies to the debate in respect of the high level group he promised to establish, will he indicate whether it is intended that some of the people who have distinguished themselves in bringing this issue to political attention will be included among the membership of that high level group? I note the array of experts who will be called on but other than that there will be consultation with the NGOs I do not see a commitment that there will be NGO representation on that high level group. That is a pity because the experience of the streets must be brought to the solutions in regard to this horrific industry.

I welcome the fact that the Bill goes out of its way to seek to protect the anonymity of the victim and that is positive. Returning to the idea of a criminal law solution only, how many loopholes will be discovered because we do not make any provision in the Bill for soliciting or purchase of a service? It is very possible that a defence can be mounted on the basis that there is no specific offence here of soliciting or purchasing a service. What is the Minister's intention in that regard?

Deputy Naughten raised the example of the Sligo case where a young woman ended up in Mountjoy in any event. It seems horrific that in a civilised jurisdiction somebody found to be enslaved in this trade can end up in Mountjoy or can be subject to deportation. Surely such circumstances ought to be provided for. The Bill, as it stands, does nothing to address the fact that those who are trafficked can still be jailed or deported. That ought to be provided for in the Bill. There is an excuse for victims of trafficking to be exempt from criminal liability in circumstances where the perceived offence, regardless of its nature, is derived from their original condition of having been enslaved in this industry. Otherwise, the notion that the State goes to the rescue of a young woman who finds herself in these circumstances, so that she ends up in Mountjoy, seems to defeat the purpose of what we are seeking to do here.

A number of recommendations are made in the research by the two academics to which I referred. There are 12 brief recommendations in the document. I would be interested to hear whether the Minister intends to take any of them on board. For example, on the issue of whether the problem exists in Ireland and, if it does, what is the scale of it and how many young women are imported here from abroad, imprisoned in Ireland or enslaved to the sex industry, this report recommends that research be funded to provide a comprehensive mapping and analysis of the Irish sex industry to include issues of the relationship between policing, sentencing, policy and user groups to fill a gap in knowledge about the context within which sex trafficking occurs. The authors recommend that comparative research should be undertaken to explore which models of service provision constitute best practice and which legislative approaches towards prostitution are most effective in combating sex trafficking throughout Europe.

They further recommend that the State should provide increased resources to each agency currently providing services to trafficked women to ensure better provision and to secure the rights of trafficked women and that consideration should be given as to whether a service dedicated solely to trafficking victims is required in the Irish context. It seems that we require more research. The State ought to be as helpful as it can to agencies struggling to cope with this issue.

We can only imagine the degradation inflicted on young girls who find themselves, through no fault of their own, in the circumstances described in some of the research I have read.

It is regrettable that we are coming to deal with this issue so late in the day, but better late than never. Now that we are dealing with it, we ought to deal with it in the holistic way recommended by the experts, to which the Minister seems to pay lip service in his speech. If he is to give effect to that approach, some of the issues he said are for another day when we deal with the immigration and residence Bill is not the correct way to deal with this issue. This is a Bill about trafficking and we should deal with that issue in a holistic fashion and take on board the advice of some of the people who work with this problem and who have brought it to the level that it is a political issue that can no longer be ignored in this House.

I am delighted to speak on the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill, which deals with a despicable crime and what is widely agreed to constitute a modern form of slavery. This Bill is timely given that it is 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade.

Contrary to public perception there is existing legislation to prosecute people for trafficking offences. Under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 it is an offence, punishable by up to life imprisonment, to traffic a child into, through or out of Ireland for the purpose of sexual exploitation. For the purposes of this Act, a child is a person under 17 years of age.

It is an offence under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 for a person to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into Ireland of another person whom that person knows or has reasonable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant or a person who intends to seek asylum. The maximum prison sentence on conviction for this offence is ten years. In trafficking cases, it is also possible for the prosecuting authorities here to bring charges for a range of offences covered by our criminal law, including sexual offences, false imprisonment, possession of false documents etc.

However this legislation will make trafficking a specific offence. It will provide vulnerable and marginalised victims with greater protection. Under the new law the powers to prosecute for child trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation will be greatly expanded and the Garda Síochána will have the power to prosecute child trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation and organ removal. The sale or purchase of humans of any age, regardless of type of exploitation, is covered and victims of trafficking will be guaranteed anonymity during court proceedings.

The new legislation also changes the maximum jail sentence for human trafficking offences from 14 years to life imprisonment. The immigration, residence and protection Bill, to be introduced later, is aimed at helping the victims. This will set up a system whereby a victim of trafficking can be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State and also, in circumstances where he or she wishes to participate in any criminal proceedings in the matter, a further period of residence to enable him or her to do so.

The Government must expressly legislate for protective measures for victims. Otherwise victims will not come forward to the authorities. This is vital not only for the health and safety of the victims but also to ensure that we are aware of the scale and the nature of this problem. I welcome measures in the Bill that will ensure the right to anonymity for those who testify in court against the trafficker and exclude members of the public from proceedings where publicity might place trafficking victims or their families at risk. Furthermore, I am happy to see that this tough new legislation is being accompanied by a commensurate jail sentence of life imprisonment.

The Bill is just one part of the strategy which involves the establishment of a high level group to combat trafficking. This Bill will also enable the State to comply with the relevant victim protection provisions in the Council of Europe convention. A high level working group dedicated to putting in place an action plan covering all aspects of this horrendous crime will also be established.

Over a year ago I saw a "Prime Time Investigates" programme on the issue which shocked me and no doubt had a similar effect on everyone who saw it. It showed women who had voluntarily left their home to set out to countries like Ireland, only to find when they arrive at their destination they were expected to work as a prostitute. The pimps running the trafficking trade are brutal and the women experience extreme violence. They are raped, beaten and even starved in order to force them to work. Often the pimps will also threaten to kill their families if the women refuse to co-operate.

Of course there has always been prostitution. However in the past this usually took the form of street prostitution, with most women operating for themselves and no involvement of serious criminal gangs. While brothels were in existence their prevalence was much less than today. Encounters with non-national women were extremely rare. This legislation is very timely as the industry has become highly organized and is firmly linked with a global crime network.

In recent times the tolerance of the sexual exploitation of women for entertainment has grown while the stigma for the women involved remains the same. Ruhama appeared before the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights in May 2006 and stated that it knew of 200 women who had been trafficked into Ireland in recent years. It believes this represents the tip of the iceberg, to which Deputy Rabbitte and other Members referred. The unpalatable truth is that these women are trafficked because there is an organised sex industry to receive them and because the demand for commercial sexual services in women and children is so lucrative.

I commend the work of Ms Mary Crilly and the Cork Rape Crisis Centre for raising awareness in Cork of sexual exploitation and trafficking. I addressed these groups on this issue some months ago. The brutal reality seems to be that society holds an ambivalent attitude towards prostitution, an attitude that accepts the idea of trading in human beings in this way and does not see it as exploitation.

International experience suggests that countries that have legalised prostitution create an environment that is more conducive to trafficking. It creates a safe haven for criminals who can now operate with impunity under the cover of legitimacy. In the state of Victoria in Australia it was found that, contrary to expectations, legalisation resulted in a great increase in unlicensed brothels.

I researched the situation at home and abroad before speaking in the House. What I learned left me both astonished and truly horrified. I am sure Members are aware of the following facts but I wish to spend a few minutes detailing what I have learnt. The United Nations estimates that between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are trafficked around the world for purposes of forced prostitution, labour and other forms of exploitation every year. Trafficking is estimated to be a $7 billion dollar annual business. Some 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States from no less than 49 countries every year. As many as 750,000 women and children have been trafficked into the United States over the past decade. Women and children as young as 14 have been trafficked from Mexico to Florida and forced to have sex with as many as 130 clients per week in a trailer park. These women were kept hostage through threats and physical abuse, and were beaten and forced to have abortions. One woman was locked in a closet for 15 days after trying to escape.

Victims of trafficking are subject to gross human rights violations including rape, torture, forced abortions, starvation, and threats of torturing or murdering family members. Nearly every country is involved in the web of trafficking activities, either as a country of origin, destination or transit. Countries of destination include Ireland, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, France, India, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and the United States. In the Netherlands, where prostitution has been decriminalised, it is believed that around 3,500 women are trafficked into the country each year from Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia to work in secret brothels or sex clubs, often in shocking conditions.

Traffickers recruit women and children through deceptive means including falsified employment advertisements for domestic workers, waitresses and other low-skilled work. Traffickers include those involved in highly sophisticated networks of organized crime and may be as close to home as a relative to the victim.

Traffickers are members of highly sophisticated networks of organized crime. Traffickers are family members and friends of the trafficking victim and these victims may be used later to traffic other women and children. Victims of trafficking are afraid to testify or contact law enforcement agencies due to their complicity with traffickers and pimps.

By its very nature, human trafficking is a clandestine activity and owing to the intimidation associated with it, victims are often reluctant to come forward to the authorities. This is the experience internationally and for these reasons, it is impossible to be precise about the extent of human trafficking into Ireland. We know it is happening but these people exist in the shadows of Irish society. While I recognise this modern form of slavery is a problem, I was somewhat heartened to read in the recently published United Nations report, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns, that Ireland ranks at the low end of destination or transit countries in western Europe. This analysis is confirmed by the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report 2006, which was published last June and examines the approach to human trafficking in 158 countries. The report states that "while Ireland has a growing population of migrants, there is not yet evidence of a large number of trafficking victims". While this remains the case, we have a duty to protect anyone who has been brought into our country in such appalling conditions.

To date, Garda operations have uncovered a small number of trafficking cases. These indicate the involvement of eastern European nationals in trafficking and attempted trafficking activity. The Garda Síochána and the Garda National Immigration Bureau, in particular, take a proactive and vigorous approach in preventing and combating trafficking of human beings.

The Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and police forces across Britain are taking part in the project which aims to help victims of trafficking and prosecute those responsible. The campaign is named Pentameter II after an operation last year which led to the arrest of more than 200 people and the rescue of 80 women and children forced into sex slavery in the UK. A permanent unit, the UK human trafficking centre, was set up following the first Pentameter operation, bringing together police, prosecutors and officers. As the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Lenihan commented, operation Pentameter II is an example of the proactive, preventative approach being taken by the Garda Síochána in tackling those who engage in this despicable crime. To this end, training is key. A training programme has been prepared for delivery to key Garda personnel throughout the State. This training programme has been designed specifically to enable members of the Garda Síochána identify victims of trafficking whom they encounter in the course of their duties, ensure that members fully understand the complexity of the phenomenon and ensure that victims receive appropriate assistance from all the relevant agencies.

Trafficking like other international crimes requires an international response. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform recently announced that Ireland has been invited to be part of a European G6 initiative against human trafficking. This initiative involves six European countries, namely the UK, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland and will run for one year. It has four strands of activity. Ireland will lead the strand on awareness raising and will host an international meeting in Dublin in January 2008. This initiative is designed to ensure the EU becomes a more hostile environment for criminals engaged in trafficking. Successful prosecutions, as with other criminal matters, will continue to depend on evidence that will stand up in court and for that to happen, there must be a willingness to co-operate with Garda investigations. Under this initiative, Ireland will launch new awareness raising campaigns in 2008. I congratulate the Minister on his involvement.

This country has also, through Irish Aid, contributed over €1.7 million towards anti-trafficking projects carried out by the International Labour Organisation among others. It is also important to ensure that victims receive the support and assistance they need so that they feel safe enough to testify against the perpetrators and are not forced to return to the terrifying situation from which they have just escaped.

A group of MPs in the UK recently formed a committee on the issue. I fully agree with sentiments expressed by the chairman, Mr. Andrew Dismore, MP, who said "We should recognise women trafficked for prostitution through deception, fear and violence as victims of this serious crime and not immigration offenders or criminals themselves."

Sex trafficking has become the third most profitable illegal trade in the world, after arms and drugs. That is a startling revelation, particularly when one thinks of the numbers of people involved. Somewhere between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are being trafficked throughout the world every year, as estimated by the United Nations. The truth is that Irish men are paying money for sex with foreign women who live in terror of beatings and other punishments. Trafficking and prostitution are expressions of a gross form of prejudice against women. They blight the lives of the weakest women in society — the young, the poor, the sexually abused, those dependent on alcohol or drugs, foreign women and women who are coerced. I hope this legislation will put an end to such human rights abuses on our shores.

I welcome the publication of this badly-needed legislation. It is hard to believe that Ireland is the only country in the European Union which has not yet legislated for human trafficking but this Bill represents a move in the right direction. The primary purpose of the Bill is to create offences criminalising trafficking in persons for the specific purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs.

Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery, as other speakers have argued and is the third largest source of income for organised crime, after trafficking in drugs and arms. Given the secret nature of the crime, the amount of trafficking known about may only be a fraction of the real amount taking place. Some 100,000 people are trafficked into Europe every year and forced to work as prostitutes, which is a serious and deplorable situation. If people see a young girl or boy hanging around a hotel lobby and their intuition tells them something is wrong, they should report it immediately to the local police station. I would be grateful if the Minister will clarify whether those reporting suspected human trafficking can be assured of confidentiality. Will they be able to report incidents by dialling a dedicated telephone number rather than a Garda number or by logging onto a specific website?

Ruhama is an Irish non-profit organisation involved in the provision of outreach services to women engaged in prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. It operates in a spirit of empathy, respect and compassion. Ruhama also offers development services for women including computer training, employment training support, personal support and counselling. Awareness training and advocacy is a growing component of its work. Ruhama reported that up to the year 2006 it was aware of 200 women who had been trafficked into Ireland for the purposes of prostitution, 132 of whom were assisted by the organisation. Of that group, 73% were originally from eastern Europe, 21% from Africa, 4% from south America and 2% from Asia. There were 23 new cases of assistance to trafficked women in 2005 and 18 in 2006. It would be remiss of me not to state my appreciation of those volunteers who do such great work for Ruhama. Will the Minister look on that organisation favourably regarding funding for its future needs?

Kathleen Fahy, a director of Ruhama, said in a recent press release that Ireland must face up to the reality that women are being trafficked into the country for the purposes of prostitution and that effective legislation must be put in place to deal with this horrific crime. She also said that trafficking is well organised, subtle and brutal and requires a national vice squad to deal with the issues effectively. Are there plans to establish such a squad?

The problem of trafficking is not confined to Dublin. In 2005, 25% of trafficked women who were assisted by Ruhama were located outside Dublin. By 2006, this had increased to 40%. All of 16 women assisted to date this year have been referred to Ruhama from outside Dublin. Neither the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 nor the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 have resulted in a single prosecution for the crime of trafficking, even though individuals have been arrested and charged. This is in contrast to other countries where there have been up to 7,000 prosecutions in 20 countries with 3,000 convictions. Unfortunately, Ireland does not have strong legislation in place to allow for successful convictions. Hopefully, the publication of this Bill will address all the issues involved.

In 2004, Italy led Europe in recognising the need to protect victims of trafficking. Some 1,940 victims, including 118 children, received assistance under social programmes. In Ireland, the system for protecting victims is ad hoc, sometimes it is offered by non-governmental organisations such as Ruhama. The Garda National Immigration Bureau also assists on a case-by-case basis. There is, however, no co-ordinated multi-agency response to assist victims of trafficking.

Ireland has signed but not yet ratified the UN trafficking protocol which was opened for signature in 2000. It urges states to protect and assist victims of trafficking with full respect for their human rights. Ireland has not ratified the UN optional protocol for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Irish Refugee Council believes Ireland should sign and ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. While Ireland has not even signed this convention, ratifying it would place an obligation on the State to address the issues relating to trafficking.

As recognised in this convention, trafficking is a violation of human rights and an offence against human dignity and integrity. The convention requires those states that become parties to take measures individually and collectively to prevent trafficking, to prosecute those responsible for trafficking and to take specific measures to protect and respect the rights of trafficked persons.

It is estimated that between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are moved across international borders each year. The profits to be made are similar to those in the illegal drugs and arms trade. The International Organization for Migration estimates that trafficking in humans is worth $8 billion annually.

Ireland is not immune to international trends and should be proactive in addressing this relatively new phenomenon. Some recent examples as reported in the media are disturbing. In May 2004, The Irish Times reported the case of an 18 year old eastern European woman who had come to the attention of gardaí when they were called to a house in Dublin. She was admitted to hospital as she had been beaten by a man who had held her at the house. He had forced her to have sex with 200 men and it subsequently emerged she was six months pregnant by him. She informed the Garda she had been taken by bus to Spain to be given a false Italian passport and trafficked to Ireland.

In September 2005, The Irish Times reported the case of a 16 year old east African woman who came to the attention of gardaí in County Louth after she was held captive in a house and abused. She had been taken from her home village in Africa at 12 years of age and inducted into sex slavery in different countries before being trafficked into Ireland. The girl recollected being trafficked through at least two airports. In April 2006, The Sligo Champion carried a report of a 17 year old west African girl who came to the attention of gardaí while working as a prostitute in the Sligo area. It subsequently came to light she was a minor and had been trafficked to a country specifically for the intention of being exploited by an organised prostitution ring.

In September 2006, the Irish Examiner carried a report about a north African minor who had been rescued from a brothel by gardaí and was put into the care of the HSE. Without adequate supervisory staffing, she unfortunately went missing from the centre in days.

One of the Irish Refugee Council's recommendations is that Ireland should sign the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons. The council also recommends that Ireland should ratify the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The upcoming immigration, residence and protection Bill must include the provision for the immediate granting of visas to victims of trafficking on humanitarian grounds. Legislation which is being drafted to prosecute traffickers must be enacted as soon as possible.

Victims of trafficking should be advised of the asylum process and the Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner should adhere to recent UNHCR guidelines when determining the status of a victim of trafficking as gender persecution. Immigration and refugee status should not be based on the victim assisting investigations by the Garda National Immigration Bureau. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform must fund assistance programmes and safe accommodation centres for victims of trafficking. Ireland must take measures to address the disappearance of trafficked and exploited children from accommodation centres. A social worker must be based at points of entry to identify vulnerable children entering the country.

The offences set out in sections 3 to 5, inclusive, will be punishable by a maximum prison sentence of life, which is to be commended. Sections 10 and 11 provide a power to exclude persons from the courts during proceedings in trafficking cases and to guarantee anonymity. An amendment to section 12 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1992 provides that an alleged trafficking victim will be able to give evidence via a live television link either from Ireland or abroad.

Poverty and lack of economic opportunity make women and children potential victims of traffickers associated with international criminal organisations. They are vulnerable people who are given false promises of job opportunities in other countries. Many of those who accept such offers from what appear to be bona fide sources find themselves in situations where their documents are destroyed, both they and their families are threatened with harm and if they are bonded in debt they have no chance of repaying. While women and children are particularly vulnerable to sex trafficking, human trafficking is not limited to sexual exploitation. It also includes persons who are trafficked into forced marriages or into bonded labour markets such as sweatshops, agricultural plantations or domestic service.

The prevention of human trafficking requires several types of intervention. Some are of low to moderate cost and have immediate impact, such as awareness campaigns that allow high risk individuals to make informed decisions. Strong laws need to be enforced as an immediate deterrent, however, although serious law enforcement is expensive. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. According to Family Health International, FHI, in 1999 a number of programmes in Asia had begun to address the causes of trafficking in women. One of Thailand's responses was to focus on the source of demand for trafficked services such as the clients of underage sex workers. Through the impetus and lobbying of its National Commission on Women's Affairs, NCWA, Thailand was the first country in the region to pass laws that imposed greater penalties on customers rather than sellers involved in commercial sex with underage partners. Application of the law has been light, but it is the basis for future enforcement. The NCWA is also trying to change male sexual norms through a national poster campaign, with messages showing a child saying, "My father does not visit prostitutes".

In China the State Council, local party commissions and government agencies attach importance to combating human trafficking. In provinces infested with crime leading functionaries from the police, the office of the procurator, the courts, civil departments, media, schools, women's federations, trade unions and the Communist Youth League each play a role in combating trafficking. Women's organisations help government agencies by creating awareness among illiterate women who are most vulnerable as regards trafficking. Seminars and training courses are sponsored by those organisations to raise awareness as regards laws and policies against trafficking. Printed materials such as the anti-trafficking manual prepared by the All-China Women's Federation and the Ministry of Justice are also distributed to women.

Awareness campaigns are used to advise citizens in America of the threat of human trafficking. Perhaps the Minister might consider such initiatives for Ireland. The "Be Smart, Be Safe" brochures describe the tactics criminal gangs use to coerce and traffic women, the risks of trafficking, what women can do to protect themselves against illegitimate groups, victims' rights and how women can get help in the United States. Through its global television campaign on human trafficking, the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention warns millions of potential victims about the dangers of trafficking.

I agree with Amnesty International, which welcomed the publication of this Bill, but expressed concerns about the lack of measures to support and protect the victims of trafficking. I welcome, too, the fact the Minister is recognising victims of human trafficking for the first time and offering them anonymity in court, which is certainly unprecedented in Ireland. The Bill, however, must deal with the fact that those who are trafficked can still be jailed or deported. Last week an NUI Galway report highlighted the case of a trafficked woman being picked up by gardaí and sent to Mountjoy jail. That is completely wrong and the Minister should not be criminalising victims. I read in the media recently about a joint policing initiative between Ireland and Britain to combat human trafficking. It will involve co-operation and the sharing of information and intelligence as well as shared initiatives for the training of officers. This is obviously in response to growing evidence that people are being trafficked into the UK via Irish ports such as Rosslare. Recently, a Welsh Assembly report on trafficking referred to Ireland being used as an access route into Wales. This is very disturbing. That accusation follows a BBC interview with a Bulgarian criminal who openly admitted that gangs frequently use Ireland as the easy access route into Britain to avoid security checks in British ports. We need to close that loophole and not be seen by international traffickers as an easy target.

In conclusion I very much welcome the Bill and look forward to the imminent prosecution of those involved in trafficking people into our country. They are not being sufficiently prosecuted at present and while the legislation is going in the right direction, much more will have to be done as well, particularly as regards awareness campaigns, a Garda vice squad etc.

I welcome the publication of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007. One should always declare one's interests and I am one of eight patrons of Ruhama, the only body dealing with prostitution in Ireland in a helpful, sympathetic and open manner. I have been a patron for 15 or 16 years and I pay tribute to the work former Deputy Monica Barnes of Fine Gael did in this area. I was Minister for Health for ten short weeks when she phoned to say she wanted to meet me. Incidentally, I was not put out for any misdemeanour, but rather because I did not support the incoming Taoiseach and then leader of Fianna Fáil. I did, later, of course. In any event she came to see me in Hawkins House and brought three women with her who had set up Ruhama. It was the spring of 1992 and since then I have kept in touch with them and have been able to be of some help, periodically.

At that time they wanted a grant towards the cost of a van for use in their street work. The Department of Health had a small amount of National Lottery funding and because of my great admiration for Monica Barnes and what she did for women, as well as for the work of Ruhama, we gave them £20,000 to enable them to go onto the streets, so to speak, for the first time and meet with the women who were under the control of pimps, recruiters etc. I was always glad to have been of help in that regard.

I asked at one stage what Ruhama meant. It is from Lo-Ruhama in the Book of Hosea in the Old Testament, meaning, "She who is not loved, is now loved". I thought that was so evocative and indicative of what Ruhama does. In my previous existence in the Seanad, I introduced a Private Members' Bill on this whole issue. It never got anywhere as it was overtaken by the election and we all became very busy. Nonetheless, I did that and carried out a good deal of research in the process.

This Bill is a very good initiative. I know the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Michael McDowell, had done a certain amount of work in this area and indeed had almost brought the Bill to fruition. It is both evolutionary and developmental in its nature. It is evolutionary because legislation has already been passed in this area, including the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 and the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. When introducing this Bill, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform stated he would introduce another that would provide further certainty and safeguards for women. He said "it is intended that a framework will be put in place whereby a victim of trafficking can be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State," and that he would achieve this in the forthcoming immigration and residency Bill. I am glad because such a provision is not included in the legislation as drafted. Frameworks always sound good but I wonder what legal certainty the proposed framework will have when implemented. A framework would offer succour and allow those who have been trafficked a period of reflection and recovery. It would be a very powerful statement of our real intent to deal with the roller-coaster emotions of women trafficked into Ireland.

I support many other aspects of this Bill, including the provision on consent. The issue of consent leads to uncertainty because it is hard to prove. To my mind, any of the women helped by Ruhama certainly did not give consent to their recruiters and were lured under the pretext that faraway hills were green and that they would have a rosy life and great earning potential in Ireland. Little do those being lured know they are being introduced to seedy, grubby apartments or bedsits in which they are told to ply their trade and give their money to their pimp or recruiter. They are debased and abused on an hourly basis and if their earnings are not high enough, they are further dehumanised and debased. Consent is, therefore, a difficult issue. I believe no consent is given.

The problem of trafficking is very significant and opaque and largely unreported, except for incidents such as the Sligo and Galway cases, as mentioned by colleagues in the House. When the Minister stated there were 76 cases, he was not reflecting the true number. Who reports such incidents? If a woman manages to escape, is she then free from the fear of being caught again by her recruiter who would make her undergo further awful debasement? While I accept that the figure of 76 cases in seven years was given to the Minister by his officials in good faith, I do not believe it reflects the true number. The fear felt by a woman when approaching a garda is significant. I, therefore, caution against believing trafficking is very rare. Although 76 cases are 76 too many, I believe there are even more. The problem is opaque and I do not know how it can be made less so.

Article 26 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings proposed a non-punishment provision but it has not been included in this legislation. I hope it will be entertained by the Minister on Committee Stage. We have cited the case of the woman incarcerated in Mountjoy Prison simply because she was trafficked into the country. She was under the cloud of having committed a crime but we should be very clear that she committed none. The crime was on the part of the person who procured her for the purpose of prostitution.

The old ideas on prostitution have long gone. Prostitution was never right but it used to involve a woman on the street being approached by a man in a car. Ruhama's biennial report for 2005-06 states:

It is now more controlled by criminals with an increasing number of women in indoor prostitution, operating out of brothels, massage parlours, escort agencies etc. These are dispersed throughout the city and indeed throughout the entire country. They are able to operate clandestinely out of private apartments. Modern technology (mobile phones and the internet) has hugely assisted pimps in advertising their prostitution scams without restrictions and enabling easy covert access for the men who buy the women.

We may not be open about the subject but it is a question of men paying money to get women and of the debasement of women. It is still the case that it is a domestic issue, but one must bear in mind the circumstances of women brought from abroad in the belief they are coming to a bright new life in a new land where they will have a job with promises of monetary return. In the first week or two after their arrival they may be brought around the streets of the capital or elsewhere in the belief they are in a bright new land, but they are then harnessed into working in prostitution, on foot of which the trafficker or pimp earns considerable cash returns. One can only imagine the disillusionment of the women and their feelings of debasement and humiliation. Many would not have known anything about this small land to which they were lured and may only have seen it on a map or globe. If they are from a country in eastern Europe where Roman Catholicism is practised, they may have been told they were being brought to a Catholic country.

The Ireland of which we speak and to which women are being trafficked is no longer the land of comely maidens and youthful swains who are seeking to meet, talk and walk with one another. Rather, it is a land of sleazy brothels where seedy acts are carried out for money. The women acting as the conduit for the money are receiving very small recompense and are victims of international groups which are, in many cases, very powerful and are seeking to establish centres in various countries in which they can ply their trade and abuse women.

I commend the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, and his officials on introducing the Bill so soon after the formation of the new Government. I am happy they have done so. I am pleased that many of the suggestions I made in my Private Members' Bill are included in this legislation. However, I am worried that the Bill does nothing to change the law whereby those who are trafficked can be jailed or deported. What are we talking about? It is the most awful thing. Perhaps we are harking back to the days of cherchez la femme, when it was assumed that women were at fault. It is proposed that women can be jailed or deported for the crime of having been trafficked. When the Minister and his officials review the comments made by Deputies today, I hope they consider drawing up some amendments to address this aspect of the Bill.

I appreciate that the matter of consent is a difficult one. Article 4b of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings — the trafficking protocol — dictates that a victim of trafficking cannot legally be said to have consented when any of the means set out in the definition of trafficking in Article 4a have been used. Ruhama has said that the Moldovan trafficking legislation sets an example in this regard. The action being taken in this Chamber today means that it is a good day for the human rights of women, in particular. It is good that Ireland will have finally acceded to the Council of Europe protocol when this legislation has been enacted. I hope Ruhama will be represented on the high level group that is to be established.

I praise the vice squad of the Garda Síochána, which does a great deal of work with Ruhama in tackling trafficking, which is a major global problem, in as diligent a manner as it tackled earlier problems associated with prostitution. I am always conscious of the good and bad that exists in the world. It cannot be doubted that evil will always abound. No law, however worthy and well-implemented, will ever root out evil practices like trafficking. As legislators, we are responsible for ensuring that those who engage in the trafficking of other human beings can be caught. Our duty is to ensure that no aspect of human trafficking is allowed to continue, so that it becomes one of the forms of evil we leave behind in the early days of this new century.

Like many of my colleagues, I welcome the long-awaited publication of this important Bill. I share the sentiments of the Deputies who have said the legislation is welcome. Fine Gael will support the Bill on Second Stage because it is necessary if Ireland is to take action against human trafficking. The process of introducing this legislation has been quite protracted. However, the Bill does not go far enough in protecting and supporting the victims it should be helping. When examining and debating this issue, it is important that we consistently remind ourselves that the offence of human trafficking is committed against those who are trafficked, rather than by such people. They should not be seen as criminals in any way. The actions we take should be aimed at helping victims, just as they are in the case of any other criminal offence.

The trafficking of women and children is a rapidly growing worldwide phenomenon, sadly. It can be compared to the slavery industry of many years ago, which we are very quick to criticise nowadays. We are not as quick to recognise the form of the problem that is prevalent in today's society. The victims of human traffickers are vulnerable women who are offered a wonderful new life that is full of joy and promise. Rather than being helped with everyday matters like work, travel, safety and security, however, they are bought, sold, imprisoned, raped and tortured. The fear and oppression with which such women have to live causes them to get trapped in a cycle from which they cannot possibly escape. As previous speakers have acknowledged, human trafficking has become a global business, in effect. It has been described by Ruhama, the work of which has been rightly acknowledged and welcomed in the House, as the third most lucrative illegal activity, after arms and drugs trading. It is a multi-billion dollar industry.

While I welcome some aspects of the Bill before the House, I am concerned that it considers the issue of human trafficking almost exclusively from the perspective of law enforcement, or the perspective of the crime. The human rights of the victims of human trafficking are largely ignored in the legislation. I acknowledge and appreciate the comments of the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, who has said he will introduce further legislation to deal with some of the matters to which I refer. However, it would have been more beneficial to deal with these issues in a holistic way in a single Bill. While I accept that prosecution, which is the focus of this Bill, is necessary, I am more concerned about preventing trafficking and protecting the vulnerable women and children who are being preyed on.

In its defence of its inaction in this area to date, the Government has focused on the lack of statistical information about how many people are affected by human trafficking, thereby failing to show a basic understanding of the complexity of the issue. It could be argued that the Government is responsible for collecting such information. The shortage of information is a consequence of the lack of legislation and the resultant failure of prosecutions. Members of this House have to grapple with the real difficulties which are caused by the under-reporting of many crimes against women, such as rape and domestic violence. As Deputy O'Rourke and others mentioned, under-reporting often results from fear, which itself is often a reflection of the power of the perpetrator and the lack of power of the victim.

I understand that the Minister referred earlier to some of the research that has been done in this area. I would like to highlight the research of Dr. Eilís Ward and Dr. Gillian Wylie, which is summarised in their report, The Nature and Extent of Trafficking Women into Ireland for the Purposes of Sexual Exploitation 2000-2006: a Report from Findings. Their analysis of trafficking cases between 2000 and 2006 found that the probable minimum number of cases in Ireland was 76, with the vast majority occurring between 2003 and 2006. The Ruhama women's project reported in 2003 that more and more women are being trafficked into Ireland, mostly from eastern Europe. The study done by Dr. Ward and Dr. Wylie confirms the prominence of eastern European women in these cases. It found that most trafficked women come from eastern Europe, with the second largest group coming from Africa. It reported that Nigerian women comprised the single biggest national grouping.

It has already been pointed out in this debate that there are conflicting statistics in this regard. I am not sure that is the point, however, because women and children who have been trafficked will take little comfort from knowing there are other people in the same situation. A document published by the US State Department last year, Trafficking in Persons Report June 2007, described Ireland as a country of transit and destination. The US report outlines some similar statistics to those I have mentioned. In June of this year, the Irish joint non-governmental group dealing with human trafficking stated that the US report seriously underestimates the extent of the phenomenon as it exists in this country today. The members of the group are working with the victims of this crime on a daily basis by gaining access to them, supporting them and trying to win their trust. It is difficult to collate information on human trafficking, which means the information we have is extremely valuable. The non-governmental group is filling a gap that the Government and this House have failed to fill over recent years. We have failed to take sufficient action on this issue, although I accept that other legislation is in the pipeline.

It is easy for the Irish people to ignore this crime because we tend to think it does not affect us. As our families and friends are not being trafficked, we cannot see the reality of the crime. It is easy to adopt an attitude of "out of sight, out of mind" or "ignorance is bliss". There is a lack of support for those who have been trafficked. The various interests involved in this area agree that the lack of human trafficking legislation, which the Government is addressing to some extent today, has allowed this problem to remain underground. The problem is made worse when one considers the lack of funding supports, the lack of policy direction, the State's concentration on the crime aspect of human trafficking and the lack of a co-ordinated and holistic approach. Some 36 of the 76 women who were clearly identified in the report published by Dr. Ward and Dr. Wylie subsequently disappeared, and their whereabouts and status is now described as "unknown".

Reports on child trafficking in this morning's news are even more frightening. While I accept there is no allegation of trafficking into or out or Ireland being linked to the 19 arrests yesterday, nonetheless, the statistic on children who have gone missing in this country is frightening; a total of 328 children cannot be traced. If this statistic related to 328 Irish children the public response and the response of the Government and this House would be far stronger and more immediate. It would be rightly considered a national scandal; either way it is a national scandal.

It seems that so long as these children are not our own children or those of our neighbours, this issue can be brushed under the carpet. What is worse and a greater cause for concern is that a few of these children — I do not have the exact figure — were supposed to be under the protection of the State and of the Health Service Executive when they went missing. This is an indictment of the system and of the failure to address these problems. While this Bill will go some way, it will not deal with the issue of such a number of children being missing. It is not known whether some of these children may have left the country so they are still classified as missing.

Ireland has signed up to a number of human rights instruments relating to this issue. I am disappointed that today's legislation does not incorporate these instruments into law in order to enhance the human rights of those affected. It is easy to sign up to these instruments but the real test is to put them into practice.

Ireland has signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I acknowledge this legislation will go some way towards meeting some of the articles in that convention in terms of exploitation and trafficking. However, the purpose of Article 39 is to secure both the physical and psychological recovery of victims and to try to reintegrate them but I do not believe this will be achieved by this legislation.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, expressed concern in 2005 about the trafficking of women and girls in Ireland. The convention commented on the lack of information on the extent of the problem, the lack of specific legislation in this area and the lack of a comprehensive strategy to combat the problem. The Government has addressed some of those concerns in this Bill, in particular with regard to prosecution and punishment of offenders. However, the recommendation that "measures be put in place to provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of women and girls who have been victims of trafficking, including the provision of shelter, counselling and medical care", has largely been ignored.

Another important aspect of the recommendations is that border police and law enforcement officials be provided with the requisite skills to recognise and provide support to victims of trafficking. This is an important point.

The Irish Human Rights Commission is to be commended on its work in this area. In July 2007 the commission held a conference on this issue. The conference made clear that the Garda Síochána must be equipped "with clear and practical laws, resources and most importantly receive comprehensive training informed by the experiences of police in other jurisdictions and by groups working with victims of trafficking in Ireland". This is a relatively new phenomenon in Ireland over the past decade and while specialist gardaí will have the skills to deal with it, many will not. I appreciate that some of these specialists are involved in Operation Pentameter II but it is vital that gardaí are trained to recognise this problem and to see it from the perspective of not only prosecuting the perpetrator but also assisting the victims.

It is acknowledged that trafficking is not the easiest of crimes to identify. The NGOs and those working in the area cannot be expected to be the only ones helping these terrified victims to come forward. The Garda Síochána must also play a role in this regard.

I quote the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who recommended that as the very first principle, "The human rights of trafficked persons shall be at the centre of all efforts to prevent and combat trafficking and to protect, assist and provide redress to victims". I have already stressed the need for a victim-centred approach, but the matter deserves further detail. We only help a person to a limited extent without the full holistic range of measures. The word of one victim who has had a bad experience in our criminal justice system will stop many others from coming forward.

I welcome the Minister's measures in terms of anonymity and the taking of evidence by means of electronic link. These are important measures which will help to address some, but not all, of the safety issues which concern victims. However, while victims fear the perpetrator, they also fear the State, or any state into which they have been trafficked. The risk of coming forward includes not only fear of reprisal from the perpetrator but fear of removal from the State. I am not going to pretend this is an easy issue to tackle and I appreciate the Minister's legitimate concerns about the exploitation of loopholes. However, I ask the Minister to consider the concerns about the exploitation of women and children. In her paper to the Irish Human Rights Commission conference, commissioner Suzanne Egan addressed some of these difficulties and outlined some obligations under the convention. These include obligations to provide appropriate and secure accommodation, psychological and material assistance, access to emergency medical treatment, translation and interpretative services, counselling and information, and access to education for their children. States must take measures to ensure that assistance to a victim is not made conditional on his or her willingness to act as a witness. Ireland has yet to formally ratify this convention but the argument is well made that Ireland nonetheless has obligations under other international instruments which it has adopted.

The Minister and the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Haughey, will be aware of the Australian automatic humanitarian visa system, which came about due to the tragic death of a young woman in a detention centre in 2003. Those victims of trafficking in Ireland are subject to deportation, despite the fact that the UNHCR has launched guidelines that trafficking amounts to persecution. Only this month a report highlighted the case of a trafficked woman being picked up by gardaí and sent to Mountjoy Prison. Where is the humanity in that? Temporary residence is not too much to grant people who have already suffered so much. It must be borne in mind that the offence is being committed against the trafficked person.

It is important to consider the connection between prostitution and human trafficking and what is, effectively, organised crime. The growth of a highly profitable sex industry which has been legalised in many countries other than Ireland, has led to women and children becoming a commodity. It is argued that trafficking for sexual purposes will never be eliminated unless the international community also takes a vigorous stand against prostitution and sexual exploitation. In a 2005 report, Poulin referred to the Netherlands as an example of the link between the growth of the sex industry and the growth of trafficking for the purpose of prostitution and the statistics are outlined. There are some contradictions in Irish law where the focus has been on controlling, containing and concealing the sale of sex. We criminalise the public offer of sex for sale but not the private offer by a single woman. We penalise those working as prostitutes but not their customers.

The Swedish model should be considered. The Swedish Government made a decision in 1999 that those creating the demand, such as the traffickers, pimps and customers, should bear the brunt of responsibility for this industry. In implementing these reforms the Government was aware that the political, social and economic conditions under which women and children live must be transformed by developments in the area of poverty reduction and social programmes aimed exclusively at women. The Swedish legislation prohibits the purchase of sexual services. A person who obtains casual sexual relations in exchange for payment shall be guilty of an offence and the attempted purchase of sexual services is also punishable. The offence comprises all forms of sexual services, whether purchased on the street, in brothels, in massage parlours, from escort services or other similar circumstances. A person who promotes or encourages or improperly exploits, for commercial purposes, casual sexual relations entered into by another person in exchange for payment, is guilty of an offence. If the offence is aggravated the punishment is increased. The promotion may take various forms, such as operating a brothel, letting premises for the purposes of prostitution or helping a buyer find prostituted persons.

The Swedish Government has reported that since the Act came into force, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of women in street prostitution. Along with the recruitment of women into prostitution, criminalisation of the buyer has also seen a drop in the number of men who buy sexual services. Since the introduction of the new regime in 1999, the number of women involved in street prostitution in Sweden has decreased by at least 30% down to 50% and the recruitment of new women has almost stopped. This begs the question whether this legislation has driven the industry underground. There is no evidence that the sale of women has moved from the streets to the Internet. It is reported that the number of Swedish women who are prostituted by means of the Internet remains stable.

Strangely, this matter falls under the remit of the Ministry with responsibility for industry which also reports that public support for legislation is growing. As the primary purpose of the law is to prevent the purchase of sexual services, often the police intervene before the offence is committed. Statistics which relate to the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators are not always good indicators of how well the new laws work. Swedish women's movements and groups that work with prostituted women have reported that the new laws have acted as an incentive to prostituted women to leave prostitution. The laws further act as a deterrent to young women who have not yet entered prostitution but are runaways or soft drug abusers.

I welcome the legislation but it has missed many points. I urge the Government to begin immediately a process of bringing into law those conventions to which the State signed up. This will ensure women and children are adequately protected. I also urge the Government to provide far greater supports and funding for groups dealing with this issue because they are the best people to help. I look forward to the next Bill the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, will introduce in this area but it would have been better to have had one Bill covering the entire issue.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007, which is important because it deals with the rights of human beings and is intended to protect the weak, exploited, innocent and vulnerable. It is a clear response to the blatant human rights abuses which exist in Ireland and internationally. I will establish my position as an independent Member of the Oireachtas on the issue and on what we as legislators can do to assist exploited people.

Human trafficking, or 21st century slavery, is one of the most lucrative, globalised criminal activities of our time. There is evidence that it has grown in Ireland and one reason for this is the lack of legislation. This Bill has been introduced to combat this and I warmly welcome it. It is a sensible way forward.

I support initiatives to introduce these measures in the Dáil. The UN protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and the Council of Europe's convention on action against trafficking in human beings must be ratified by the Government. We need to enact laws aimed at preventing this human rights abuse, penalising those who engage in it and protecting and rehabilitating those trafficked. I do not want any fudge on this matter. Governments throughout the European Union and the United Nations must be proactive on this issue. Sitting on the fence or throwing our hands in the air is not and can never be an option.

As I am discussing human rights, I cannot stay silent on how George Bush treated the Cuban people in his recent statements. Mr. Bush is an international bully and he has the brass neck to announce new measures and actions to reinforce the US blockade against Cuba. The plan is an attack on the Cuban people and an attempt to starve them into submission. This is relevant to human rights. I challenge Bush, his gang of neocons and all those who made the world a more dangerous place. They are a disgrace to mankind and a menace to those who believe in open, political dialogue.

I remind the Irish people of the 3,478 Cubans killed and the 2,099 maimed at the hands of US-based terrorist groups. This is the reality for the Cuban people and I stand by them in the Parliament today. I call on the Minister for Foreign Affairs to be more proactive on this issue and to stand up to George Bush at EU and international level. We cannot have a world leader trampling on the rights of the Cuban people and reinforcing and worsening the blockade.

During the coming weeks, Mr. Philip Agee, a former member of the CIA will visit Ireland. I urge all those who believe this is a one-sided issue to listen to him. He was granted asylum in Cuba and has written extensively on the role of the CIA in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s. He is a world authority on the operations undertaken and the methods used at that time. He will be in Ireland to promote a new film about the CIA and the undeclared terrorist US war against Cuba, a war which——

Deputy McGrath is wandering away from the Bill.

I appreciate that but I wish to raise this issue. As we are discussing human rights and the abuse of people it is important that we put this on the record and stand up and state that the Irish people will not accept it. I urge people to listen to Mr. Agee when he visits Ireland. I call on the American people to reject Bush and support progressive views on Cuba. This debate is on criminal law and what George Bush is up to is criminal.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to create offences criminalising trafficking in persons for the specific purposes of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs and to provide severe penalties for anyone found guilty of committing the offences. The offences are in line with international norms as established in the EU framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings, the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations convention against international organised crime and the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings. It also criminalises the selling or purchasing of human beings, children and adults, for any purpose. The sale of children for the purpose of exploitation is a requirement of the optional protocol to the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Consider the phrases used in the Bill such as "the sexual exploitation of children", "organs" and "child prostitution". It is a sad reality of the modern world that we are having this debate. Despite all the talk and rhetoric about human rights, throughout the world there are still children who are abused and who have their human rights exploited. I worked with children for more than 20 years and it is important that we identify and support them, particularly those who were abused. That is a nightmare for the families involved.

Regularly we hear in the media of children who have gone missing here and in other European countries. Imagine what it is like for a five or six year old girl or a seven or eight year old boy in that situation. Many people state that a child in such a situation might be better off dead. This is the sad reality and it is what this debate is about. That is why I warmly welcome the progressive legislation before the House. I will call on all Members to support the legislation. This is the time to stand up and be counted and do something about it.

A key aspect will be the implementation of the legislation. I will discuss the area of policing later. Recent events with regard to child abusers and people involved in pornography and Garda involvement with Interpol in Thailand showed the positive side of good quality policing. As well as good policing not only do we need legislation but also sound prevention policies. During the last Dáil we passed many Bills to deal with organised crime. However, we still have a horrific situation. It is not only about legislation but about tackling, assisting and prevention.

Many people do not take the word "prevention" seriously, particularly when it comes to crime and more particularly the exploitation of children. If children in families at risk and dysfunctional families and disadvantaged children are supported at an early age many of them can be saved. We have many examples of good practice, particularly in disadvantaged schools, by teachers, principals and home-school-liaison teachers. People do not realise the major positive impact they have on communities and the amount of dysfunctionality and exploitation which they prevent. That is all connected to this debate and we must be proactive at international, EU and UN level in dealing with the situation.

Section 2 provides the definitions for the Bill. The definition of "labour exploitation" applies to both children and adults who have been trafficked for that purpose. The definition of "sexual exploitation" applies to the trafficking of adults for the purpose of sexual exploitation — the provision criminalising the trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation is being inserted into the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 in substitution for the existing child trafficking provisions in that Act. This section is a very influential and important part of the Bill. The issue is that we have got to criminalise the people directly involved. We also have a responsibility to stand up and be counted.

Section 7(3) creates an offence of conspiring with or inciting a person in the State to traffic or sell or purchase a human being in another country and subsection (4) makes it an offence for an Irish citizen or person ordinarily resident in the State to conspire with or incite another person outside the State to traffick or sell or purchase a human being. Under subsection (5) it is an offence for people to conspire with or incite in the State or another country another person to traffick or sell or purchase an Irish citizen outside the State and subsection (6) makes it an offence to conspire with or incite, in another country, an Irish citizen or person ordinarily resident in the State to do an act in another country that if done in the State would constitute the offence of trafficking or selling or purchasing human beings. The maximum penalty for committing or attempting to commit any of the above offences is an unlimited fine and-or life imprisonment. The phrase "purchase of a human being" is horrific. It is a nightmare for young people, particularly very young boys and girls. We cannot have a situation where human beings can be purchased and treated in such a way.

Section 8 deals with proceedings relating to offences committed outside the State. This is a standard provision under which where proceedings are commenced for an offence committed outside the State, they may be taken in any place in the State. That section is relevant.

Section 9 deals with double jeopardy. This is also a standard provision under which a person cannot be proceeded against for a trafficking or selling or purchasing human beings offence if he or she has been acquitted or convicted of a similar offence in another country. I have major concerns about this section but we have to tease it out more and be conscious of it. I emphasise the importance of training for people who work with adults, those who work in the immigration service, at our ports and in the Garda Síochána. We have got to be constantly vigilant and to ensure that those who work in these services have their eye on the ball and have the maximum training to see these things coming through the system. They have to be very professional and sensitive to the needs of families and children. I do not blame families from very poor countries who want to get out of their own country and come to a country where there is a great deal of wealth and resources. We do not want that debate lumped in with this debate.

Many people come to European countries to create a better life for themselves and they make a massive contribution to our country also. The reality is that the Celtic tiger would not have developed were it not for the immigrant workers who came here and assisted the Irish people to develop this nation. It is important to be constantly on guard against any elements of racism that emerge in the broader society. As legislators we have a duty and a responsibility to stand up and be counted to ensure we have respect for all races, creeds and colours in the modern new Ireland. That is the direction in which we are going and there are many positive angles to it.

Section 10 deals with exclusion of members of the public from proceedings. This section gives the judge power to exclude persons from the court, other than officers of the court, persons directly concerned in the proceedings and such other persons as the judge may determine, during proceedings for trafficking or selling purchasing offences under this Bill. This will ensure a lack of publicity surrounding cases where persons are alleged to have been trafficked in circumstances where publicity might place them and their families at risk. This is a strong and important section because we have got to focus on and respect and protect the rights of victims. We cannot have a situation where families are put at risk, particularly in court.

This is a matter that should be seriously considered in a broader criminal justice system. We have to ensure people and their rights are protected, where organised crime, pornography, exploitation of children and human trafficking is involved. We have to be vigilant to ensure we separate the innocent from the guilty. At all times we must be sensitive to the needs of victims and, particularly in this case, young families. That is the reason section 10 is important. It also provides safeguards for people's rights.

Section 11 deals with the anonymity of victims of trafficking. This section guarantees the anonymity of alleged victims of trafficking, unless the judge fully or partially waives the anonymity in the interests of justice. Breach of this section could have serious consequences for an alleged victim. Accordingly, an offence under this section will be triable on indictment with a maximum penalty on conviction of an unlimited fine and-or ten years imprisonment.

On the broader issue of modern day slavery, that this debate is taking place and the Bill is going through the House is a sad reality that despite all the wealth and resources and the many excellent services in place there are sections of people who are constantly exploited. If these people come from poor and disadvantaged countries we must ensure they are supported, politically, socially and economically. Aid must be provided to these countries on a regular basis but it should be given honestly and to the people on the ground in the communities and not wasted by corrupt governments or corrupt officials. We should listen to the advice from many of our voluntary organisations in these countries.

On the question of exploitation of children and human trafficking we have to be vigilant in respect of a section of our population, young children brought up in dysfunctional families who see things that many adults would not see in a lifetime. These children are at risk. Programmes need to be in place to assist these children to have a normal childhood. One cannot expect the child who lives in a drug-fuelled family where there is violence, intimidation and sexual exploitation to have a normal childhood. That is the sad reality for families in Ireland today. That is the sad reality we see every day in the children's courts and in many criminal justice cases. When talking about human trafficking it is important to reflect on these issues because it is all part of the wider debate. If we are concerned about human trafficking we defend their human rights and do something for them but we must ensure that young people and disadvantaged families are supported.

I welcome some of the progressive policies that have been implemented here to assist and prevent this type of situation. The way forward for many of these young people is early intervention through education and support for families through social and family affairs, the development of quality housing and the demolition of ghettos.

I welcome the broader debate. It is important to support the legislation which deals with the exploitation of young families, children, young boys and girls. We should not ignore that reality. We must be supportive of them. This is round one in the legislation stake.

I thank all the people in Dublin North-Central, from Marino, Artane, Beaumont, Coolock, Clontarf, Raheny and across the constituency who sent me letters on the Bill.

The Deputy should not forget to thank those who voted for him.

I warmly thank all the people of Dublin North-Central who gave me their No. 1 vote. I thank them also for raising this issue before the legislation came to the House. A good campaign was run by many of them. Many of them sent in cards through our offices. I commend them for being very proactive on the issue. The message went out loud and strong. They were very organised and it is important to have a link between the community and the legislators. What we are doing today is part of the process. However, we must implement the process and ensure the availability of services to protect the people on the ground.

I wish to share time with Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this Bill. I compliment the Minister on showing such alacrity in presenting it. When I was party spokesperson on justice during the last Dáil, a number of times I asked the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to expedite this legislation. We must remember that a Bill similar to this was on the Order Paper in the previous regime. However, despite repeatedly promising it the then Minister never delivered. I am delighted the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has shown such alacrity and he even stated in his remarks that it is one of his major priorities to get it through the House as quickly as possible.

In the first instance we have international conventions to implement and to transpose into our legislation. The introductory section of the Bill makes it clear that the international community has been quite exercised in seeking to put together an international framework for domestic parliaments to take on board. In modern times the earliest one was the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime, done at New York as it relates to trafficking in women and children. Also included is the European Council framework decision of July 2002 on combating trafficking in human beings. The more recent ones include the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings done at Warsaw on 16 May 2005. The Council of Europe has a very fine convention on the trafficking of human beings and while it is not included in the reference in the Bill it was included in the Minister's speech.

The first step is to transpose into legislation the framework directives coming from the European Union, the United Nations and the Council of Europe into Irish legislation. The Minister has taken a fairly narrow view in his approach in this regard and deals largely with law enforcement as opposed to human rights. He is specifically criminalising the activity, and seeks to put in place mechanisms to prevent it taking place and investigate it when it does. He has told us that he will deal with the central issues of victims, which is the nub of the question, largely in future immigration, residence and protection legislation that he is due to introduce later. We have been awaiting that Bill for some time and I would like to know when it will appear. Ideally both Bills should have been taken in tandem perhaps with one Bill going through the other House and then transferring to here because the two are intrinsically connected. It is not possible to have law enforcement legislation without dealing with the victims of the criminality.

As has been said repeatedly in this House, human trafficking represents a modern form of slavery with humans, particularly women and children, being exploited — sexual exploitation, particularly in the case of women and children, and labour exploitation in the case of men, women and children. For good measure the Minister has thrown in exploitation relating to organ harvesting, which is a particularly foul activity. However, people are trafficked for that reason also.

The organisation with which I have most contact in my constituency is Ruhama, which has been extremely active in dealing with the issue of prostitution and trafficking. Indeed Ruhama had nothing to do with trafficking until recent years when it found that its work on prostitution was overlapping with its experience of people being trafficked into prostitution here. While it essentially works with the domestic issue of prostitution by trying to help and resource the women caught up in it and for which it has developed a very good policy, it has found this is compounded by the significant numbers of trafficked women it comes across. Since the original United Nations document in 2000, Ruhama has come across more than 200 women who were trafficked into Ireland. Let us remember that Ruhama is a small organisation that only operates in a few areas and is not countrywide. Clearly the numbers it has come across represent the tip of the iceberg and there may be hundreds if not thousands of people who have been trafficked through the country, which gives rise to the belief that there is a considerable criminal fraternity operating on a global basis bringing people across borders into this country to be exploited in the case of the women Ruhama has met, for sexual exploitation and in other cases for labour exploitation and even organ harvesting.

We have been particularly lax in implementing European Union directives that would prevent labour exploitation, including directives on working time and agency workers. Agency workers represent a major bone of contention. People can be brought here under the guise of being agency workers as though it is a legal and normal way to bring people across borders into another jurisdiction. It is very prevalent in this country as Ireland is one of only three countries not to sign up to the European Union directive. When they come here they are subject to exploitation, as they do not have the normal rights and benefits that accrue from domestic legislation. This is a scandal for a country that advises the international community that we have perfected the role of partnership with the trade union movement representing workers, the Government and the business sector coming together in a wonderful social partnership for the benefit of the economy and the community at large. Yet we are allowing this whole category of agency workers to be exploited because we simply will not transpose into Irish law the EU directive on agency workers. This area cannot be neglected and is not covered by this legislation. We need to get that directive through the House and into law as quickly as possible.

The legislation refers to the removal of organs. We have all received letters and other communication from representatives of the Falun Gong, who are often to be seen outside this House. They claim with a certain degree of credibility that some of their members in China have been dealt with in this fashion. When in detention their organs have been removed and sold for large sums of money. We must look carefully at how this practice works and consider whether there are incidents of this happening in Ireland and the strong reports that it is happening in China. Many Chinese who have fled to Ireland are Falun Gong practitioners.

We cannot leave this Bill without commenting on the significant number of victims. The Minister admits that the US figure for global trafficking is 800,000; that at any given time 2.5 million people are in the trafficking-exploitative industry worldwide and that there is transborder activity into 137 countries.

I am not sure if the Minister has responded adequately to human trafficking. We know the Garda National Immigration Bureau is there, but we cannot get a response from it and we do not know how it operates. He referred to NGOs, but the advice from the NGOs was to present this Bill in a different fashion so as to make the victim central to it. While he will bring the NGOs on board, he will not bring them on board in the way they had wanted to come on board. Will he establish the equivalent of the UK human trafficking centre which is working excellently in the UK? We need a place as a focus for dealing with human trafficking and not an attachment to an existing structure like the Garda National Immigration Bureau, GNIB, or a commitment that gardaí will be trained to do it or that he will involve some other agencies and possibly the NGOs. We need a human trafficking centre where resources will be put in place, where we can observe, monitor, scrutinise and audit what is being done to deal with the tragedy of human trafficking.

Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Bille seo. Tá sé ríthábhachtach go ndéanann muid plé air mar bhí Teachtaí ar ghach taobh á lorg le blianta anuas. Ba mhaith liom comhghairdeas a dhéanamh le Ruhama as an obair atá déanta acu agus as an iachall a chur siad agus dreamanna eile orainn an reachtaíocht seo a chur ós comhair na Dála. Beidh reachtaíocht cuíosach foirfe againn nuair a bheidh muid críochnaithe leis na Céimeanna éagsúla má bhíonn an tAire sásta éisteacht leis na buartha atá againn faoi. Tá súil agam go mbeidh muid in ann déileáil leis na nithe sin ar Chéim an Choiste.

While research in terms of precise statistics and figures on the level of trafficking through or within Ireland is sparse, there are indicators that make its existence as a social and human rights problem undeniable. The report published this month by NUI Galway on trafficking for sexual exploitation identified a probable minimum of 76 women. In a presentation to the European affairs committee, of which I was a member, Ruhama indicated in 2005 that it was working directly with 32 victims of trafficking and was aware at that stage of another 70 people. I do not think the numbers would have been reduced in the meantime, but have probably increased. The 328 unaccompanied children who have gone missing from HSE care in recent years is another frightening indicator that we must face up to the very real issue of trafficking. This Bill is a start to facing up to this problem.

The migrants' rights centre published a report earlier in the year showing that trafficking of forced labour is a problem in Ireland, particularly in restaurants, agriculture, construction, and among domestic workers. While I am happy that "a child" is defined in the Bill as anyone under 18 years, I hope this indicates a change from the regressive move by a previous Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 10 years in other legislation.

Human trafficking necessitates a two pronged approach, a successful criminal prosecution against traffickers and protection and support for the victims of trafficking. To a great extent these ideals are interdependent. The overdue Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007, as drafted, introduces new human trafficking offences and is welcome. However, it does nothing to address the protection of victims. We have been told that we must wait a little longer for such provisions. There will be fines for offences of trafficking in children and adults for the purpose of labour exploitation, sexual exploitation and organ collection. I trust it is the intention of Government to criminalise human trafficking for the purpose of exploitation, but I am worried that in the case of children, the Bill leaves many gaps. I appeal to the Minister to address these loopholes on Committee Stage. A child may be trafficked for exploitation in a manner other than the three mentioned, for example for adoption, for welfare benefits or ritualistic sacrifice.

In 1998, seven year old Victoria Climbié was trafficked from the Ivory Coast to Europe for the purpose of benefit fraud. Her aunt promised Victoria's parents that she would give their little girl a better life and educational opportunities. In February 2000, two years later,Victoria died in a hospital in England, having suffered months of horrific neglect, physical abuse and degrading treatment. She was just eight years and three months when she died in what was to become one of the worst cases of physical child abuse and exploitation ever documented. Victoria's aunt and her partner received a life sentence for her murder. We hope that cases as extreme and horrific as the murder of Victoria are few in number but a higher number of children may be trafficked for benefit fraud. Those who are arranging to transport them have little or no concern for their welfare as their primary goal is financial. I recall the case of five year old Adam, whose torso was found in the River Thames in 2004. It was said that he was trafficked from Nigeria for the specific purpose of ritual killing. Even though that is very rare, we need to ensure that it is covered. We must ensure the law has watertight provisions for criminal prosecutions of these offences. A simple amendment could cover exploitation for financial gain, ritualistic killing and abuse, and adoption and this would increase the potential for successful prosecutions to be taken against all traffickers in human beings.

The Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in human beings recognises that victim protection is as important as any part of the approach. The Government should take all steps necessary to ensure that Ireland signs and ratifies this convention as a matter of urgency. This would strengthen the Bill. Provisions in section 12 allowing victims to testify via television link, while welcome, are no substitute for a reflection period or a residency protection. The Minister has attempted to justify the absence of victim protection from the Bill by saying it will follow in the long awaited immigration and residency Bill. However, when will that Bill come before the House? How soon will it come into effect, considering the length of time we have been waiting for the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill? We should incorporate protection in this Bill to ensure that we have such measures when the Bill is enacted. The rationale for delaying victim protection until the immigration and residency Bill comes before us is also based on a false premise that all trafficking victims are immigrants. This may not be true. Under the definition in the Bill, trafficking is not limited to cross-jurisdictional movements, and it can occur in the State also.

The Bill could be improved in terms of victim restitution. Under the Bill, when a judge is sentencing, he may issue a fine or a prison sentence up to life imprisonment. The judge should also be empowered to issue an order at that stage mandating a compensation payment to the victim where appropriate. This is particularly important, given that many victims no longer reside in the State and will not be in a position to pursue a claim for damages through civil court structures. I urge the Minister to examine this and try to ensure we will have the strongest legislation possible in line with the demands of various groups to all parties in the House to address this issue.

I propose to share time with Deputy Seán Connick.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak. As a parent of two young girls I, like every other parent, have hopes and dreams for them. When people become involved in trafficking, they are not only destroying the hopes and dreams of the parents but the innocent hopes and dreams of the child concerned whose life is likely to become a horror story. It is important to end trafficking. Life is hard enough for everybody without us allowing dreams to be smashed before lives even start. The recent arrest of traffickers in Holland, Spain, Belgium, Britain, the United States and Ireland is very welcome. It is important to acknowledge the commitment and effectiveness of those who worked to effect those arrests. It must be one of the most difficult jobs within the Garda Síochána. I also acknowledge, as previous speakers have done, the contribution of Ruhama, an organisation which supports the victims of violence against women. Its workload is increasing. I urge that supports for it should increase in keeping with its increased workload.

Human trafficking is one of the greatest scourges in society and becoming increasingly apparent. It is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of people for the purpose of exploitation. In other words, it is modern day slavery. Many of us would have thought that slavery was long gone. Abraham Lincoln abolished it in America in 1865. Great Britain recently marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery this year. Unfortunately — judging from the debate people are saddened by the fact — slavery remains a real and modern phenomenon. Human trafficking is a global industry. It is estimated that anywhere between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are trafficked every year. It is difficult to obtain exact figures, as many cases go under the radar. These figures serve to remind us of the negative impact of globalisation. However, it has also had major positive impacts which people recognise. One of the negative results is increased human trafficking. While it is easier to carry out financial business transactions across the globe, unfortunately, it is also easier to buy and sell people.

Ireland is not immune to this phenomenon. Human trafficking represents one of the worst violations of human rights, the right to freedom. What most of us take for granted every day is systematically abused for millions all over the world. That is why I welcome the publication of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill, the aim of which, to use the words of the Minister, is to make Ireland a more hostile environment for those who might consider trafficking people here. It criminalises the trafficking of persons for the specific purpose of the trafficked person's sexual or labour exploitation or removal of his or her organs or for any reason. It applies to the trafficking of both adults and children.

This legislation will serve to bring Irish law into line with European and international standards. The offences as outlined in the Bill are in line with the European Union Framework Decision on Combatting Trafficking in Human Beings, the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, which supplements the United Nations Convention Against International Organised Crime and the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The prohibition of the sale of children for the purpose of exploitation is a requirement of the optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Not only are we acting to bring domestic legislation into line with international standards, the Bill is also part of a much broader strategy. I compliment the Minister on not dealing with this matter in isolation but on looking at that broad strategy. He has announced a new high level group on combating trafficking in human beings, an initiative I very much welcome. This group will draft a national action plan which will allow Ireland to deal with the broader issues and enable the relevant administrative structures to be put in place.

I also welcome the initiative being taken by the Minister on a European level. We will be taking the lead and hosting an international meeting in Dublin early next year. We are part of the European G6 initiative involving six member states, the aim of which is to make human trafficking less attractive to potential criminals, to create a hostile environment for them. To use an old cliché which is very accurate on this occasion, prevention is better than cure. This represents a proactive and co-operative approach to an interstate problem.

The Bill is broadly welcomed by many organisations working in the area of trafficking. Particularly welcome is section 11 which guarantees the anonymity of alleged victims of trafficking, unless the judge fully or partially waives the anonymity in the interests of justice. Breach of this section could have serious consequences for an alleged victim. Accordingly, an offence under it will be triable on indictment with a maximum penalty on conviction of an unlimited fine and-or ten years imprisonment. However, it is imperative that the rights of the victims continue to be protected.

There are four separate aspects to trafficking in persons, one which is the criminal law. The second includes immigration issues which will be dealt with in the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill. The third is the protection of victims of trafficking and the provision of services for them while they remain in the country. The fourth is Garda operations and international co-operation with other police forces and agencies to deal with this type of criminality. I urge the relevant parliamentary committees — I hope to be particularly active on and involved with those committees — to keep in mind the rights of victims in every aspect and at every stage of each Bill and initiative. It is the human rights of victims of trafficking that we, as legislators, are aiming to protect. Victims of trafficking have no voice. They will have experienced traumatic events and will often not be in a position to defend and advocate for themselves. At a time when the rights of victims and their relatives are top of the agenda, I urge that the rights of those without a voice be prioritised and that the legislation provide the necessary support and protection. The Minister has prioritised this issue, which I very much welcome.

I thank Deputy Andrews for sharing his time with me. I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a contribution to the debate on this timely and important Bill.

Human trafficking is one of the vilest of criminal activities. It is a violation of basic human rights and a modern day form of slavery. Human traffickers deliberately target the most vulnerable, those affected by desperate economic circumstances, victims of war and those with limited access to the protections we in the West take for granted. They have a cruel disregard for human suffering and human life and their only interest in those they are trafficking is how much money they can make out of them. Human trafficking is a global phenomenon and affects almost every country in the world, whether it acts as a source country of the victims of trafficking or as a transit or destination country.

Human trafficking is now believed to be the third most profitable criminal enterprise in the world, with profits exceeded only by drugs smuggling and arms trafficking. In 2004, the US State Department estimated that $9.5 billion was being generated worldwide on an annual basis by human traffickers, with at least $4 billion of this as a result of trafficking for sex slavery. Estimates have been made that up to 1 million people are trafficked across international borders each year. Some 70% of the victims of trafficking are female and 50% are children. The majority of these victims are trafficked with the intention of forcing them into prostitution.

This form of human slavery has generally been associated with the developing world, such as the poorer countries of Eastern Europe and with Latin America, Africa and South East Asia. It is not something that people readily associate with the western world or with Ireland. But the destination country for the majority of trafficking victims is generally in the West and it would be naive of us to believe it is not an issue which Ireland must face up to. Thankfully Ireland does not appear to have a problem of human trafficking on the scale of many of our European neighbours and the United Nations report, Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns, ranked Ireland at the lower end of transit or destination countries in Europe. However, we have seen enough evidence of human traffickers viewing Ireland as both a transit and a destination country to realise that trafficking does exist in Ireland.

My own constituency, Wexford, has recently been linked to claims of human trafficking in Ireland, because of the location in the county of Rosslare Europort. Rosslare was highlighted earlier this year in a BBC "Panorama" documentary which interviewed a Bulgarian human trafficker who claimed to use Rosslare as an access point to Britain. In fact, a recent report in the Welsh Assembly also claimed that Irish ports such as Rosslare were being used by traffickers to access Wales.

However, Wexford's most public and tragic encounter with human trafficking came on 30 November 2001, when a container loaded with furniture left Italy and travelled through Germany to the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium. In Zeebrugge it was loaded onto a ship which sailed to Belview Port in Waterford. From Waterford the container was transported to Drinagh business park on the outskirts of Wexford town. On the morning of 8 December, eight days after the container was loaded, it was opened in Drinagh business park. Inside were the remains of eight people who had died on the trip from Italy, including four children aged four, nine, ten and 16. Five people, including a 15 year old boy, survived the trip. The heartbreaking nature of what was discovered that morning brought home to everyone in Wexford and in the country the cruel disregard for human life which human traffickers exhibit. The great tragedy of what happened in Wexford was that it came only a year after 58 people lost their lives in similar circumstances in Dover, England. It seems that loss of life on this scale was not enough to overcome the desperation of some people and the greed and indifference to human suffering of others.

I welcome the publication of this Bill and, in particular, the performance of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan. Since taking over as Minister, he has been active and progressive and has led the Government's response to the scourge of human trafficking. To date there have been approximately 7,000 prosecutions in 20 countries on charges of human trafficking, with 3,000 convictions. I believe this Bill will allow Ireland to come into line with many other countries which are committed to the eradication of human trafficking. It will also allow Ireland to comply with the many international commitments we have signed up to at European and United Nations level.

I also recognise that the Bill is only one part of the Government's strategy to combat human trafficking. A new high level group on combating trafficking in human beings is being established with the intention of presenting the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform with the most effective tactics to fight traffickers in human misery. The forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007 will also address our treatment of the victims of trafficking. The Bill will allow Ireland to comply with our obligations under the Council of Europe convention, as well as enshrining in law the recognition that those who are trafficked are victims.

Internationally, we are also becoming more active in co-operating with other countries to tackle human trafficking. The fact that the victims I mentioned earlier, who were found in such tragic circumstances in Wexford, had travelled through Italy, Germany and Belgium before reaching Ireland shows that international co-operation is vital to tackle human trafficking. Ireland has become involved in the European G6 initiative against human trafficking with Britain, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. The Garda Síochána is particularly active in co-operating with a number of initiatives based in Britain, such as the human trafficking centre and Operation Pentameter II. Indeed, the Madeleine McCann case, whatever its outcome, has put the issue of child kidnapping and trafficking top of the agenda. Last week my five year old nephew, in a reply to a comment I made to him, retorted that he did not want to end up being taken away like Madeleine McCann. The issue has permeated all levels and ages of society.

Ireland as a country cannot become complacent about the problem of human trafficking. Human trafficking profits on the suffering of others. The victims of human trafficking are the weakest members of society and are voiceless to seek help. I welcome this legislation as a response to the problem of human trafficking and I hope it will help to ensure that Ireland never again sees a tragedy like the one witnessed in Wexford on 8 December 2001.

I would like to share time with Deputy Coveney.

On a point of information, I will take the next slot.

It is with pleasure I welcome this vital legislation before the House today. However, the Bill is not as far-reaching as I had hoped. There is an onus on the Government to specifically provide protection for victims of human trafficking but that is completely ignored in the legislation before us today and that is very unfortunate. Currently Ireland is the only member of the European Union not to have any form of legislation relating to human trafficking so this Bill is long overdue. Nevertheless, I welcome it.

In May 2006, after the two "Prime Time Investigates" programmes which focused on the issue of human trafficking and its prevalence in Ireland, the Government made a commitment to introduce legislation to address the issue. I am disappointed it took 18 months for that to become a reality, although it is positive that it has now been brought forward. Human trafficking is a massive international criminal industry, involving prostitution, sexual exploitation and labour exploitation and is something to which we, as an island, have become particularly vulnerable. We have become a target for human trafficking in recent years, particularly the past decade. Many people in Ireland, particularly legislators, have turned a blind eye to the problem. It is a huge human tragedy and affects children and young adult females, who have been used as slaves and pawns in a really brutal and vicious way.

I am very pleased with certain aspects of the legislation, particularly those focusing on the penalties which will be imposed for perpetrators and those who facilitate human trafficking and carry out the practice as a major business. A penalty of life imprisonment is now guaranteed under this legislation and I am very pleased to see that. However, the failure to provide for victim protection is a major issue. Government plans to deal with trafficked victims under separate immigration legislation which we will probably not see until next year and that does not reflect the dire need to deal with the problem as a matter of priority. Immigration legislation has not been published and we do not yet know if it will incorporate full protection for victims. We have indications from Government benches that it will not and that would be a very sad reflection on how the Government views the urgency and gravity of human trafficking in Ireland at the moment.

I urge the Government either to include victim protection in this Bill, so that it is consolidated in the same legislation, which would be the logical thing to do, or to bring forward the immigration legislation which will deal with that lacuna in the law. I am sure the Minister of State is familiar with EU Council Directive 2004/81 and, in particular, Article 6, section 1 which states:

Member States shall ensure that the third country nationals concerned are granted a reflection period allowing them to recover and escape the influence of the perpetrators of the offence so that they can take an informed decision as to whether to cooperate with the competent authorities.

In essence, we in Ireland need urgently to accept that victims of human trafficking are not illegal immigrants but victims who require protection and care.

All of the facilities and services available to the State need to be invested in meeting and supporting their needs. It is a tragedy that this directive has not been implemented. The date for implementation was 6 August 2006 and we have already exceeded this period by a full year. This exposes the State to potential litigation from a person who falls victim to human trafficking and is not given the protection which the State is mandated to provide under not alone EU legislation but the UN protocol. An enormous amount of international and European weight is being given to this issue which appears to have been ignored to date by the Government. I urge the Government to consider including this provision in the Bill before the House or to accelerate the process for the immigration Bill.

This issue is timely in light of the arrest today under a European arrest warrant of a person party to a major international child trafficking ring. The individual will be brought before the High Court next week for an extradition order. I would like to see greater co-operation between the Irish police and its EU counterparts. I know an agreement exists between the UK and Irish police but this needs to be extended. It is a pity Ireland has opted out of the justice and home affairs element of the European reform treaty as this would have provided a wonderful opportunity to further integrate, resource and equip the Garda Síochána with the intelligence and knowledge available to its EU counterparts. This issue needs to be re-examined. Perhaps the Government would examine further ways of ensuring integration and co-operation with police forces across EU member states.

It is hoped the people suffering at the hands of vicious and greedy perpetrators will be borne in mind in terms of how this legislation is implemented, developed and enhanced in the future. It is easy to dismiss people brought into this country illegally and traumatised, victimised and used as human slaves. These people do not have a voice. An opportunity exists today to try to give them that voice. I hope that in the course of this debate and the debate on the immigration Bill, the concerns and issues that have affected such victims in the past and will affect them in the future will be aired. I conclude by stressing the need to take into account the vital importance of protection of victims as this legislation proceeds.

I reject the statement by the Minister time and again on radio that human trafficking is not a problem in Ireland. That is not true. It may not be the problem it is in other European countries in terms of scale and numbers but human trafficking is a problem in Ireland on a number of levels. Organisations such as Ruhama, which has been quoted a number of times, will state definitively that it has, during the past three years, supported more than 200 victims of human trafficking into Ireland. I urge that the Government parties take note when speaking about human trafficking not to minimise the issue or the problem by repeating the mantra that human trafficking is not really a problem in Ireland. One person brought to Ireland for the purpose of exploitation and abuse, be it physical, sexual or within the labour force, is one too many.

The light was shone on this issue 18 months ago in two consecutive RTE "Prime Time" programmes which highlighted the facts around human trafficking in Ireland and the fact that it is a growing problem. Approximately 100,000 people within the European Union are trafficked across Borders each year. Does anyone seriously believe the second wealthiest country in the EU in terms of income per capita is going to be immune from that problem because it is an island? We also have a problem in terms of Ireland being used as a trafficking route into the United Kingdom. This has been confirmed by a BBC report. Anyone who watched that programme would have heard a Bulgarian criminal openly speaking about the easy access into the United Kingdom through Irish ports. That is a problem.

The recent Welsh Assembly report on human trafficking specifically fingers Ireland as one of the routes into Wales for the purposes of trafficking in human beings for sexual exploitation and to feed the sex industry in Wales and the remainder of Britain. Let us stop putting our heads in the sand and saying human trafficking is not a problem in Ireland. It is a problem and we need to deal with it. The introduction of this legislation is a good first step in attempting to deal with it although I have some problems with it. I will come back to them later.

Let us get the language right first and recognise that on this island we have a problem, although unbelievable for many people, in terms of the trafficking of vulnerable people into Ireland for the purposes of abuse and exploitation. Also, Irish people are willing to pay for the services of these people knowing they are being exploited and abused. Although this is an unpleasant reality, it is about time we faced it.

As Ireland becomes wealthier, more liberal, multicultural and open to immigrants wishing to work and live here, the reality is the problem will continue to grow unless we deal with it in a comprehensive way. I have been a member of an organisation called Stop the Traffik for quite some time. The organisation which was established in the European Parliament in Brussels more than a year ago is an umbrella organisation that is trying to raise the profile of this issue internationally. The mantra of this organisation is basically summed up in three words in terms of how we need to deal with trafficking: prevention, prosecution and protection.

This legislation effectively deals with the prosecution element in that it defines trafficking in adults for the first time in Irish law and that is welcome. We have put in place appropriate criminal sanctions for the offence of trafficking which is also welcome. However, the legislation does not deal with the other two areas on which we need to concentrate.

Debate adjourned.