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

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I wish to reinforce the point I made in the debate last week, namely, that the Minister has consistently taken an incorrect position on the issue of human trafficking in Ireland. It is not true that human trafficking is a potential rather than existing problem. While the number of victims of trafficking and the level of exploitation here may not equate to those of other European countries — this is due purely to geographical location — Ireland still has a significant human trafficking problem.

It is important to remind the House of the level of human trafficking and criminal activity in this area worldwide. According to figures released by the International Labour Organisation in 2005, each year up to 12.3 million people fall victim to forced labour and, of these, 2.4 million are victims of human trafficking. Between 600,000 and 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year. According to the US State Department, approximately 80% of this group consists of women and children and 50% are minors. According to UNICEF, 1.2 million children are trafficked each year for the purposes of exploitation and abuse. The criminal proceeds generated on the back of the trafficking of women, children and men for the purposes of exploitation are estimated to be up to €7 billion globally.

Anyone naive enough to believe that a country as wealthy and prosperous as Ireland is immune to this criminal activity has his or her head in the sand. Approximately 100,000 people are trafficked across borders in Europe each year. Anybody who believes that none of the victims of this crime comes to Ireland or is transported through this country is being deliberately misleading or is naive. I appeal to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, who is in a position of responsibility in this regard, to change tack when he gives interviews on this issue. He should cease using dismissive language about the trafficking problem and arguing that Ireland may need to counteract it at some point in the future and state instead that trafficking is a problem which will grow if we do not legislate to address it.

In terms of the evidence of trafficking in Ireland, I and other speakers have noted the role of Ruhama, an organisation that has encountered up to 200 female victims of trafficking in recent years and provided assistance to 132 of these women. It found that 73% of the group originated in eastern Europe, 21% were from Africa, 4% from South America and 2% from Asia. Anyone who knows anything about the level of secrecy and criminal organisation involved in trafficking or the fear instilled in victims by the criminals who make money from this activity will realise that the figure of 200 constitutes a tiny proportion of the actual victims who have either suffered or are suffering abuse.

Apart from being a destination for traffickers, Ireland has serious questions to answer in terms of its role as a transit country or easy route, specifically into the United Kingdom, used by gangs organising trafficking activity. In recent months, evidence of this problem emerged in a BBC programme and a report published by the Welsh Assembly. Let us face the fact that trafficking is a problem.

I welcome the Bill and I am particularly pleased that the new Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform is treating the issue of trafficking as a priority to be addressed early in his term. While it is welcome, the action taken thus far is not sufficient.

The Bill criminalises trafficking and a number of linked activities. This important legislative area needed to be updated in terms of defining the trafficking of a child or adult for the purposes of labour or sexual exploitation, organ harvesting and so on. I welcome the Bill in that regard.

The Government must concentrate its efforts and focus on three matters, namely, prosecution, prevention and the protection of victims. I will not waste too much time on the prosecution element, which is predominantly about defining in law the problem and putting in place the necessary legislation to make it as easy as possible for the Garda to get tough convictions. I welcome the legislation as it imposes life sentences and significant fines on the gangs involved.

However, it is unfortunate that the Bill does not attempt to address the other two matters. The most controversial is prevention, but what is not controversial is ensuring gardaí are trained in the most up-to-date methods of dealing with trafficking. We must ensure cross-border co-operation within the European Union between so-called source and destination countries. Opting out of the reform treaty's provisions on cross-border co-operation on crime gives an unfortunate signal to criminal gangs. To be fair to the Government, we will decide to opt into most of the areas of co-operation, specifically those dealing with drug and human trafficking and other cross-broder criminal activity.

The most controversial element is the need to target demand for the services provided as a result of exploitation, abuse, violence, intimidation and organised trafficking of vulnerable people, primarily from outside Ireland, for the purpose of sexual use or abuse, whether in a brothel or in the informal setting of an apartment or basement in a town or city. Our efforts will amount to nothing unless we are serious about targeting the user or the client of brothels.

While there is a demand for the services of the nastier side of the sex industry, it will be met by supplying victims for exploitation, primarily through trafficking. Judging by the increased numbers of foreign prostitutes versus young Irish women who find themselves in that situation, people are being invited, encouraged or forced into Ireland to meet demand. I would like the Government to take a braver and stronger stand against demand and to target the businessman, farmer, accountant or unemployed man who uses the services knowingly of teenage girls or young women brought to Ireland to service demand.

The protection of victims is the most worrying aspect of the proposed legislation. The explanatory memorandum reads: "The protection of and provision of services for victims of trafficking will be dealt with administratively and immigration issues will be included in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill." The message is that legislation will deal with victims and their protection in the context of a debate on illegal immigration and the related issues that must be addressed. In terms of legislative development, the Government will put people brought here illegally for exploitation in the same category as illegal immigrants. The message sent out will be that we do not want them, that they should not have come to Ireland, that they are illegal and should be repatriated and deported. Irrespective of whether we do this, it is the message being sent. We must do everything we can to encourage the victims of exploitation and trafficking, whether they work on mushroom farms or in brothels, to come forward, speak out and go to the Garda.

If we are unable to address the protection of victims in legislation that deals with human trafficking specifically, to make it easier to secure prosecutions by making people brave enough to come forward or to guarantee protection, we are putting the debate off until another day. The matter will be immersed in a complex and difficult debate on illegal immigration, deportation, repatriation and the other controversial issues concerning immigrants. That is the wrong way to go about it. The people in question are victims and should be treated like we would treat a 17 year old Irish girl were she forced into a brothel to be abused by clients nightly. Were she a 15 year old or 16 year old Irish girl, there would be a national outcry if she came forward. If the girl comes from Nigeria, Latvia, the Ukraine or the Balkans and does not speak our language, the attitude seems to be that she should not be here in the first place, that she is illegal and that the problem will be solved by sending her home.

The issue is not so simple. Before we consider whether someone should be returned home to the streets of Albania, Moldova, Nigeria or wherever, in circumstances that resulted in his or her being trafficked in the first place, we have an obligation under a series of EU, Council of Europe and UN protocols and conventions to treat those who have been exploited or trafficked as victims and to give them the protection of the law and the support of the State through health services, be it in respect of mental or physical health.

I support the Minister and I welcome his tabling of legal definitions for a crime that will not be a crime until this legislation is passed, namely, the trafficking of adults into Ireland. Other legislation addresses the trafficking of children. For the purpose of human rights, we must get it right for the victims. If someone comes to Ireland and is abused by our people or the citizens of other countries living here, the State has a responsibility to encourage the person to come forward, to support him or her and to provide temporary residency, as we are obliged to do under a European Council directive so that he or she need not worry about deportation until his or her health is restored with the support of the State, be it for three, five, six months or whatever. Once the person is capable of finding his or her feet and going home, repatriation must be discussed. Let us deal with victims on the basis of crimes that have been committed against them, not on the basis of where they have come from. That is where this legislation falls down and we will introduce amendments on Committee Stage to that effect.

I wish to share time with Deputy O'Brien. Unlike the previous legislation we discussed, I argued for this legislation while in Opposition and I am pleased to support it in Government. It is a modicum of progress in the right direction. I wish to dwell on protection for those who are trafficked, on which Deputy Coveney touched. It is crucial that while we deal with the criminal justice aspects of trafficking, we put in place support mechanisms for those who are brought to this country against their will. It is important to realise that these people are vulnerable in terms of language skills and legal status. Often their accommodation is substandard and they are worried about landlord issues. Particularly in the case of those who have been trafficked for sexual purposes there is a dependency on a criminal underworld. These people are vulnerable and one of the most significant issues in their minds is that they may be deported at a moment's notice. We must examine how we can provide greater support for those who have been exploited.

This theme runs through this kind of legislation for the past 100 years. The legislation on prostitution is often unfairly used to target the provider rather than the user of such services. We must examine how to better protect the provider and in this case the trafficked, rather than concentrate all our resources on criminalising the trafficked. I am not convinced we have dealt adequately with this. Young female drug users still sell their bodies on the streets of Dublin to support a drug habit and we do not have enough joined up thinking between the Garda, the HSE and voluntary support agencies. We do not have enough support services to prevent this from happening. This also applies to underpaid and exploited workers. I think of the plight of the Turkish workers who came to Ireland, whose case former Deputy Joe Higgins raised in the previous Dáil.

Exploitation and trafficking, as defined in the legislation, still occur. We must get the support structures right for those who are vulnerable. I am not convinced we have enough training in the three bodies that deal with those who are trafficked, the Garda, the DPP and the courts, for these people to deal with the trafficked. We must examine this issue in detail. The comment in the explanatory memorandum that "there will be no direct cost implications to enacting and implementing the proposed criminal offences" worries me. That is fair enough if it allows for the resources to be allocated correctly, however with any new legislation there is a learning curve and a need to ensure that those implementing the law are adequately trained in its legal complexities and the difficult support structures required for those who have been trafficked.

The Bill deals with all aspects of trafficking, including trafficking for organ harvesting. This is an almost unthinkable issue, but it happens, if not in Ireland. We have heard stories from members of Falun Gong who are concerned about organ harvesting in China and enormous human rights abuses there. Once enacted I hope we can use this legislation to send a strong signal through our foreign policy that we do not want to stand idly by while other vulnerable people are abused in the most horrific means possible in other jurisdictions. It is important to say that.

I am pleased with section 6 of the Bill, which refers to offences by bodies corporate. Often in Ireland the best way to tackle criminal law abuse is to follow the money. If we can follow the trail of landlords or companies to target the individuals and the bodies corporate behind the abuse, that will help.

I welcome the legislation. I noted Deputy Coveney's mention of temporary residency for those who have been trafficked. That issue must be teased out in detail. I worry that because much of what happens in this area is underground and invisible, this legislation may deal only with the criminal law aspects of trafficking and not put in place mechanisms to deal with those who have been trafficked. This exists in other legislation before the House. I would hate to think we would deal with the criminal law aspects in isolation and not concentrate resources on the administrative protection and provision of services that will be dealt with in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.

I thank Deputy Cuffe for agreeing to share time. I was interested in Deputy Coveney's contribution and I ask the Minister to take his proposals on board. I welcome this legislation. We must examine the human side of this. I will encourage my Government colleagues to examine the notion of temporary residency. The legislation has the right thrust about it in protecting people. We must consider the human side and ensure that when trafficked people are found they are not deported at the earliest opportunity. Like many previous speakers on this much needed Bill, I welcome the fact the Minister has brought it to the House so speedily. Shortly after his appointment the Minister flagged the issue as a priority. I commend him for dealing with the legislation in such a focused manner. Before the election many of us received organised representations from constituents asking us to ensure this legislation on criminal law and trafficking was brought forward to ensure Ireland is compliant with the EU framework decision, the Council of Europe convention and the UN Protocol on the criminal law and law enforcement elements of human trafficking. I hope my constituents in Dublin North who were in touch with me over the last few months will see that we take it seriously. Our goal is to move toward ratification of the Council of Europe convention, which deals comprehensively with victim protection. Ratification of the convention cannot take place until changes are made through this legislation. I look forward to this country ratifying the convention in the near future.

Any legislation that helps to protect the most vulnerable in society must be embraced wholeheartedly. Organised criminal gangs make substantial profits from the exploitation of poor people, both young and old. Organised crime across Europe and the world simply uses human beings as commodities. It sees people as a means of making profit and has no regard for human rights. The people involved in such crimes are devoid of scruples or morals. Ireland must take a stand and play a part in smashing these criminal gangs. It must do its best to eliminate human trafficking in Ireland and across Europe.

I welcome the establishment of a high level group, which will include representatives of the Garda Síochána and relevant Departments, to combat human trafficking. The group will draft a national action plan. It is important that we deal with this issue in a focused fashion. The main purpose of the action plan is the prevention of trafficking and raising awareness of the issue. Many people do not realise how prevalent trafficking is in Irish society and throughout Europe. The EU has produced stark figures on the worldwide trafficking of human beings. The action plan aims to raise awareness of this among the public and, most importantly, to prosecute traffickers and anybody else involved in such operations.

We must also carefully consider how to protect the victim. The points made by Deputy Coveney on how we should deal with the human side of this problem are most important when considering amendments to the Bill. The most important aspect of protecting the victim is a focused approach to child trafficking. Ireland and its people are known worldwide as a nation that cares for the vulnerable, poor and needy. We should strive to be an example to the world in how seriously we take the problem of the exploitation of human beings. Legislation is required but real action must follow. We must make Ireland a country in which the criminal gangs know they cannot operate and a country that continues to be known as one of the foremost countries in the protection of human rights.

The problem of human trafficking, particularly child trafficking, must be a priority for the Government. The EU estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked worldwide. A portion of them would be in Europe and would have crossed our shores. These children are mainly from poorer nations, such as those in the old Soviet bloc, eastern Europe and Africa. Legislation and enforcement will undoubtedly help but the Government must also consider how to tackle the root causes and the economic reasons for the prevalence of human trafficking in poorer nations. We must continue to further improve Irish Government foreign aid to developing nations and ensure the continued support and expansion of fair trade, which will help the countries involved deal with the problem.

Unfortunately, in developing nations life is cheap, economies are poor, there is little employment and some families give their children to be trafficked. We are aware that this happens so we must examine how Ireland can do its best as an EU member state to tackle the root causes, such as through the foreign affairs committee which met this morning and discussed the work it will do in the next year. We must try to tackle the root causes of these problems.

I support the Bill and thank the Minister for bringing this much needed legislation to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Bill. When important legislation is introduced it should be welcomed. I also welcome the priority the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, gave to this legislation and the speed with which it was brought before the House. I commend my colleagues from all sides of the House, but particularly in the Opposition, for their thoughtful contributions to the debate. We must ensure that whatever amendments are made on Committee Stage will make the Bill a genuine instrument that will be of assistance to the victims of trafficking.

What was impressive about the contributions to the debate so far was the stress on vulnerability. When one examines the structure of trafficking beyond the numbers, the person who becomes a victim of trafficking is generally extremely vulnerable. Previously I worked as a sociologist with an interest in the sociology of migration. The first striking aspect of this issue is that the recruitment of people at the point of origin is an exploitation of vulnerability. This vulnerability can be beyond gender and age. With regard to the journey itself, Deputy Naughten referred to the appalling experience of the people who were trapped in a container in Wexford, what happened to them and the purpose of that.

At the destination a new set of vulnerabilities is introduced for the victim. The victim is often deficient in language skills in the new environment. More importantly, they are quite confused and perceive themselves as either illegal or as people who, if discovered in the public space, might face imprisonment, as happened in the Sligo case referred to in the study by NUI Galway. The contributions to the debate which stressed adequate treatment of the victim are entirely correct in their emphasis.

It is a feature of the research into crime over the years, particularly in the case of the old fashioned approach towards prostitution that was referred to by Deputy Cuffe, that the person who is the client walks away while the person who is the provider of the services becomes the focus of attention. That still happens with regard to the victim of trafficking. The first perception a person will have, and it will be used as a mechanism of control over them, is that they are illegal, have nowhere to go and have no way to attract attention to themselves and their vulnerability, even if they had the capacity to do so with their language skills.

The first approach that must be dismissed is the suggestion that one discovers the person as a participant in a crime setting. The person has to be rescued from that setting. It is, therefore, extremely important that the practical proposals that have been made for granting temporary residency and for providing for a period of recovery be accepted. The 12 recommendations made by Dr. Ward and Dr. Wylie in their comparative study on best practice for the delivery of services are valuable. It would be useful if the Minister gave a commitment, as was sought by my colleague, Deputy Rabbitte, to the 12 modest proposals they made. What is more significant than the difference between the figures in Dr. Ward's and Dr. Wylie's study and Ruhama's figures is that we desperately need to resource research in this area. We must also resource vigilance.

I am concerned about the public silence on a related matter, namely, the disappearance without trace or account of unaccompanied young minors who arrived in this country and were in the care of the old health boards and later of the HSE. I spoke to some of them as they made their way through the school system, some of them in this city. They worried that they would face deportation on reaching 18 years of age as no transition to Irish citizenship was possible for them.

Regarding residency and citizenship the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, has suggested he will not follow the Spanish and Dutch proposals. This is entirely wrong as their arrangements are well thought out and enable a regularisation that is very practical. The Minister relies on the notion that such proposals send out the wrong message. This is the stuff of the 19th century and it is time we dropped this attitude. We are addressing the movement of people in social space and legislative proposals should deal with this.

Most contributors to this debate have rightly concentrated on the victim and if one found oneself in the position of the woman in Sligo what would one do? One would face arrest, deportation and return to the previous context of vulnerability from which one was originally abstracted. It does not matter whether a friend, neighbour or relative is involved because the fact is it is a modern form of slavery. We should also remember, regarding international law, that when the yield is great from drugs, trafficking and armaments the matters become harder to deal with. People like Manuel Castells examined globalisation in terms of what information technology can facilitate and, tragically, states and institutions are far behind the trades in drugs, armaments and trafficking in terms of technology. Due to the high yields from drugs, trafficking and armaments these trades have adopted new technologies. The international community must catch up in its response to this challenge.

I accept the point made by others on Irish compliance with some of the international instruments that have been developed. This may not be the appropriate time to mention this but I am beginning to think we should examine again our monist and dualist options on ratification. There are so many instruments now, perhaps between 25 and 30, and responsibility falls on the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to ensure compliance. It will become a lead Department in seeking the adjustment of domestic legislation to enable the ratification of what has been signed. There is a case for and against this as some countries sign in bad faith and do not proceed to deliver the protections detailed in the instrument. Regarding instruments that cover fundamental human rights it may be time for us to consider a change of tack as there are other ways of doing this. We could farm out the review necessary on domestic legislation, farm out the drafting of legislation to see if it can be delivered faster and so on.

People have referred to the 200th anniversary of Wilberforce's reforming legislation on the slave trade but they should remember that this did not mean slavery was abolished, only the slave trade within the British Empire. Unfortunately some countries, particularly in Asia, may have up to 250,000 youngsters in bonded labour but I do not want to be distracted by that issue. It has been suggested that the horrific trade in human trafficking may be worth $32 billion and $10 billion of this is derived from the sale of individuals which presents a huge challenge to humanity. Deputy Coveney quoted the figures of the State Department in Washington which suggested that 800,000 people are trafficked worldwide each year. International experts suggest that 2.5 million people are recruited, trapped, transported and exploited.

To progress this legislation between now and Committee Stage we should closely examine the 12 modest proposals made by Doctors Ward and Wylie who studied this matter in detail. We must resource organisations such as Ruhama and it is important to include them when we consider how to establish best practice. Comparative research is very important but I do not want to argue whether the problem in Ireland is serious or not because if the human rights of one person are abused we have a problem. Two people conducting research with inadequate resources may produce differing figures in terms of people trafficked to Ireland, such as 105 or 175, but this is not the issue because Ireland has a problem. There must be specific legal protection and specific measures to allow a person make the transition from exploited victim to new citizen.

I hope my comments are taken in the spirit in which they are offered but a framework is too weak a suggestion. It is necessary to respect the sociology behind a situation and know the circumstances in which the person was originally acquired, moved and entrapped. It must be possible to consider the international information that is available to us and it may be necessary to give a person six months to consider his or her options. Temporary residency is necessary because the person must be able to move into a safe environment. Migrants sometimes spend years in a city before they gain the confidence to know the institutional fabric of the place they find themselves. Frequently migrants have language difficulties and have often been forced to cut their link to bonds with the point of origin from which they may have been sold. Such individuals have nobody and nothing but the vigilance of the State, which sees an illegal interaction between the trafficker and the person exploited. There must be an effective agency in these circumstances that can discover the problem, invigilate to know the extent of it and provide an escape mechanism for the exploited individual. This agency would also need to manage the individual's transition into society and this cannot be done through something as vague as a framework.

I am not blaming any agencies regarding the example I quoted on unaccompanied minors but people were lost and this worries me. At their request I called to see some young people who were preparing for State examinations whose only places of study were the tops of their beds. These young people were in accommodation with adults and had few opportunities because going into the leaving certificate they had only deportation to look forward to. These young people were unaccompanied minors in Ireland for whom we have a human rights obligation in international law. Some unaccompanied minors in Dublin are missing and cannot be accounted for so how can we say they are not being exploited?

I welcome many aspects of the Minister's speech because he says he will take a holistic approach to this issue. The example I gave illustrates how co-operation is needed between health agencies, agencies dealing with children, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and others. It is not satisfactory to suggest that this is a matter for the Health Service Executive, or previously a health board. All that does is pass the parcel with regard to responsibility. I do not suggest that is what people tried to do, but we need a mechanism of joined-up responsibilities within the different areas if we are to deliver.

There are good and sensitive proposals in the Bill, for example, respect for dignity and privacy in respect of people transferring from victim to a new situation, which is a difficult transition. As a sociologist, I must point out that the evidence is not good and the figures are not very encouraging in respect of people who have been damaged by exploitation and their capacity to make this transition, mainly because of what they have been put through both psychologically and in terms of the social setting in which they find themselves.

We need to examine policing or first line enforcement. We also need to consider the attitudes of judges, who desperately need re-education in some areas. Take, for example, the appalling situation we had recently relating to a judge who made the comment about Romanian women selling flowers late at night, "One wonders what they were at". He then went on to make further appalling remarks. I am told the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has no responsibility for what eccentric judges may say, and the Courts Service has no duty of care either. Judges, therefore, can just ramble on. In light of the position of victims and those trapped by trafficking, we need re-education for judges, just as we do on enforcement.

It is important also that we resource the academic research conducted by Dr. Éilis Ward and her colleague Dr. Wiley, but not as a challenge to Ruhama. We need to resource both groups and take their views into account when crafting the new Bill. I look forward to the opportunity for my colleagues to fine tune this overdue, but welcome, Bill on Committee Stage. I look forward to consideration by the Minister of how we may have speedier compliance with our international obligations so as to ratify the international instruments, either by fast-tracking legislation here or by reconsidering the monist and dualist relationship we have towards the ratification of international instruments and human rights.

I am delighted this Bill has come before the Dáil. Trafficking is a global issue, compared by many to the slave trade. It is an indictment on us all that 200 years after the abolition of the slave trade the trafficking of humans takes place under our noses in cities and towns throughout Europe. Like dealing in drugs and arms, the trafficking of humans is very lucrative and attracts the interest of criminals whose sole purpose is to abuse vulnerable people, most of who find themselves trafficked into the sex industry. Others are trafficked for labour purposes and some for the supply of human organs, which is shocking.

It is estimated that between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are moved across international borders each year. The US estimates that 80% of those trafficked are women and girls and that 50% of them are children and that the bulk of these are forced into prostitution. The trafficking of humans is a growing problem in Europe, where an estimated 100,000 are trafficked each year. The UK estimated that 330 children were trafficked into it in 2004. These are only the figures we can identify, but most people acknowledge they are only the tip of the iceberg.

I welcome the Bill because for too long now the profits raised from human trafficking outweigh the punishment. I hope the result of this legislation will be to force those involved in this sordid business to consider whether the reward is worth the risk. Crime lords do not know borders and humans to them are no different to drugs, just a different product. Often the return is greater. Human trafficking is a lucrative enterprise, the estimated returns from which were €6.5 million last year.

A few weeks ago the Dáil debated the Government's decision to opt out of the EU attempt to set up criminal structures. I said at the time that our opt-out was a retrograde step, particularly in light of the trafficking issue where we must try to deal with criminals who move people from Asia, Africa and Europe across European borders. We need full co-operation in dealing with criminals at police and justice level. I hope we will not come to regret the Government's decision to opt-out of those measures in the new treaty.

We have had calls for this legislation for some time and it is welcome. Ireland is the last European Union country to introduce it. Trafficking has been termed the most serious human rights issue of this world and I am delighted we are finally tackling it and standing up and being counted in that regard. The Government has been embarrassed by media focus on the discovery of human trafficking rings across Europe and has delayed on the issue for a long time. The UN's human trafficking rapporteur, Ms Sigma Huda, criticised Ireland's lack of legislation for the area last January.

I do not agree with the statement by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform that human trafficking is a small, but growing, problem here. Much of the evidence from the media and organisations such as Ruhama, which works with people involved in prostitution, refutes this. Ruhama reported that up to end-2006, it was aware of 200 women who had been trafficked into Ireland for the purpose of prostitution and had assisted 132 of these women. Some 73% of the women came originally from eastern Europe, 21% from Africa, some from South America and 2% from Asia. Ruhama also reported assisting a further 22 cases in 2005 and another 18 in 2006. It is aware of trafficking of women for involvement in an illegal sex industry.

Ruhama was recently to the fore in participation in the EU anti-trafficking day on 18 October, where it launched an important awareness campaign which is much needed for the victims of this serious crime. Female victims of trafficking who are involved in prostitution find it difficult to make contact with anybody who could help them, whether for welfare purposes or through the Garda Síochána. I am delighted to see that the Garda Síochána is involved in offering support to Ruhama. It makes sense for Ruhama to work with gardaí throughout the country. The awareness campaign is important and I hope it will reach many vulnerable people who find themselves in a difficult situation. We cannot repeat often enough how important it is to give people such a lifeline, which can provide the hope of being rescued from their appalling situation.

Ruhama works with the Garda Síochána on its training courses, helping gardaí to recognise victims of trafficking. Such co-operation ensures that victims will obtain the necessary support and services that should be available to them. The director of Ruhama, Kathleen Fahy, has said we must face up to the fact that women are being trafficked into this country for the purposes of prostitution and it is necessary to have legislation to deal with this horrendous crime. That is exactly what we are doing here today, facing up to the fact and introducing legislation to address that crime.

Human trafficking is well organised, subtle and brutal and can be very cruel. In 2005, 25% of the victims that Ruhama assisted were from outside Dublin. That figure rose to 40% in 2006. This year, none of the 16 victims Ruhama has assisted was from outside Dublin. Overall, however, the figures show that victims of trafficking who are forced into prostitution are in small towns the length and breadth of the country.

Most of those who are trafficked end up working as prostitutes in brothels. There are some horrific stories of people shackled to beds and being abused as victims of sex crimes. Most of the criminal activity in our towns and cities is related to drugs and every middle-class dinner party at which cocaine is used is feeding into that situation. In addition, those who use the sex industry are also guilty.

In recent weeks, it was reported that a Russian woman who came here surrendered her passport and was confined to a small apartment in Dublin. It was reported that she lodged €10,000 per week on behalf of her overlords. That is the kind of money we are talking about, yet the woman only received €70 for her efforts. Such activity is going on all over the country. People are paying money for sex and they know the girls or women involved have been trafficked. Prostitution is illegal but those who avail of the sex industry are facilitating the illegal trafficking of victims of this appalling crime.

The NUI Galway study, referred to by Deputy Michael D. Higgins, claims that many women were trafficked into Ireland for the purposes of sexual exploitation between 2000 and 2006. The research project was carried out over two years, surveying agencies and organisations working in the area of prostitution. The report highlighted that 76 women were trafficked over that period. Apart from the evidence that people are being trafficked here, Ireland is also being used as a gateway to the United Kingdom. A recent BBC programme interviewed a trafficker who said he had used the port of Rosslare to bring such people into the UK. As an island nation, which in many cases is a gateway to Europe, we have a responsibility to individuals who find themselves being trafficked here for the appalling crime of prostitution.

In his speech, the Minister said it was his intention to put in place a framework whereby a victim of trafficking would be afforded a period of recovery and reflection. In addition, if victims so wish, they can participate in subsequent criminal proceedings. I was disappointed that the Minister referred to a framework and that he is not examining this Bill with a view to ensuring that victims are viewed in a more compassionate light. As a nation, we must all bear responsibility for ensuring that victims are not criminalised. I do not think that is the Minister's intention, but nonetheless there were reports of gardaí finding a woman in Sligo who was a victim of trafficking involved in prostitution and she ended up in Mountjoy jail. That is certainly not a solution to the problem.

At present, there is anad hoc approach involving NGOs, the Garda Síochána and the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Each case is worked on individually and there is no co-ordinated response to assist victims. There have been reports of victims being returned to their own countries without any form of rehabilitation or assistance in coming to terms with the horrendous crimes to which they have been subjected. I am thinking of the girl who was found in Dublin shackled to a bed with cigarette burns all over her body. She was used for sex and was certainly in no fit state to be sent back to her country. She needed the support of this State. I think people here do not want to see such people classified as illegal immigrants or dealt with under immigration laws. They must be seen as victims and we have a duty to support and rehabilitate them. They should be provided with all the necessary medical, psychological and social welfare assistance the State can offer to ensure that they can rebuild their lives. Many such victims, who may have been kidnapped and sold or traded illegally, cannot return to their country of origin.

Ireland has signed up to European Council Directive 2004/81/EC on granting temporary residence permits to victims of trafficking so we have an obligation in this regard. The purpose of the directive was to give victims time to get support and recover before returning home. Ireland has also signed up to international conventions which state that victims need protection and support. They should be classified as victims, rather than being dealt with as an immigration problem. This legislation does not adequately address the need to support victims but rather classifies them as immigrants. We need to regard them as victims and recognise that they have had some horrendous experiences and offer them support. This is one of the flaws in the legislation which Deputy Naughten will consider in the detailed analysis of the Bill on Committee Stage.

I welcome the Bill on this issue about which we have heard and read in the media. The absence of legislation on human trafficking has been a matter of deep concern to us all. The world is changing but it is frightening to think that 200 years after the abolition of slavery people are treated as sub-human often under our noses in this city and in towns around the country. While the Bill is welcome we must consider the victims rather than those who are classified as illegal immigrants.

I welcome the publication of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill and congratulate Ruhama, the only group dealing with prostitution here. It made significant inroads into our perception and knowledge of prostitution and human trafficking which most people assumed did not exist. Ruhama made a presentation to a committee which shocked me and many other Deputies. I also pay tribute to the former Deputy Monica Barnes from my party who many years ago was one of the first Deputies to highlight the growing area of prostitution and to say that many involved were not there of their own free will and had no control over many issues. I acknowledge too the work of the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, who almost brought the Bill to fruition. Legislation has already been passed in this area including the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 and the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998.

I wish my constituency colleague, Deputy Naughten, well in his challenging brief of immigration and integration. He has the enthusiasm and ability to address serious problems such as this one.

The Bill started with the title "criminal justice (trafficking in persons and sexual offences)" but because of the pressure on the Parliamentary Counsel's office in the run up to the general election there was a long delay in drafting the Bill. Had the subject matter not been split there would not have been a Bill until the end of this year. Given the urgent need to legislate for human trafficking offences a delay would have been unacceptable. Sometimes we put important Bills on the back burner which was unfortunate on this occasion. Can we not find more resources to deal with these urgent cases?

The splitting of the Bill is welcome. This Bill deals with the criminal law while immigration issues will be included in the immigration, residency and protection Bill which will provide protection for victims of trafficking and services for them while they remain in the country. Section 13 makes technical amendments to the Sex Offenders Act 2001, two of which provide for the smoother operation of that Act. A failure to comply with the sex offenders register will be an arrestable offence and probation and welfare officers will be able to prosecute persons for any breach of the conditions attaching to an order for post-release supervision of sex offenders, which is welcome.

Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery and is the third largest source of income for organised criminals. Given the secret nature of the crime we do not know the extent of the trafficking. We rely on statistics but have no idea of its extent because the people involved are the only source of information. The Garda has a significant role to play in this respect but its resources are stretched in dealing with gun and drug crime. For example, in my town last weekend the gardaí had to deal with many incidents. The Minister of State might be able to tell us whether the Garda has the resources to deal with this crime.

Some 100,000 people are trafficked into Europe every year and forced to work as prostitutes. This is a serious and deplorable situation. We all need local information. Our society was rural and local up to ten or 15 years ago when people knew what their neighbours were doing, what anyone who went to Dublin did, with whom they went and so on. While we may not want to hark back to those times we seem to have conveniently become very insular and pay no heed to others, saying this is not our problem. If someone sees a young boy or girl hanging around a hotel lobby and thinks there is something wrong he or she should ring the Garda. We should probe deeper into these matters. People in these communities get involved in football and basketball clubs, or various societies. People from eastern Europe, especially Poland, are involved in the church. There is a fine line between being interested and nosey but if we hear of, or think there is, something wrong we should call the Garda or the social services. Teachers may know things about their pupils or the brothers and sisters of pupils.

We are talking here about the second oldest profession in the world. There are customers. If they felt that something was not quite right, should there not be some kind of whistleblower's law? They could call the Garda Síochána and express their concerns, but would they be then prosecuted? I just do not know and I hope the Minister of State can answer these questions.

We can talk all we want in this Chamber and that will go into the record, but it will not go any further until we become more open about this. We must have a publicity campaign, but there are Irish people who are equally guilty because years ago it was brushed under the carpet, to be dealt with by the agencies. No agency or law can deal with this and we need further information.

Ruhama is an Irish non-profit organisation involved in providing outreach services to women engaged in prostitution. It certainly operates from a form of empathy, respect and compassion. Ruhama reported that up until 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 cases of assistance to trafficked women in 2005 and 18 cases in 2006. We should show our appreciation to those volunteers who do great work for Ruhama. This organisation has got State funding in the past, but it should get very generous financial assistance as it is doing the work on which the State often turns its back. However, I accept that something is being done. Ms Kathleen Fahy, the director of Ruhama, stated that Ireland must face up to the reality that women are being trafficked into the country for the purposes of prostitution, and that legislation is being put in place for this horrific crime.

In 2004, Italy led Europe in recognising the need to protect victims of trafficking and 1,940 victims, including 118 children, received assistance under social programmes. We seem to have adopted anad hoc Irish solution to an Irish problem. Hopefully we are introducing more effective legislation, but this needs to be backed up by more resources for the Garda Síochána, Ruhama and the health services. It is estimated that between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are moved across international borders each year. We know the profits to be made are similar to those of illegal drugs and the arms trade, as they are worth €8 billion annually. We are not immune in Ireland to international trends. Under the Celtic tiger, many people are coming into this country and unfortunately some are coming against their own free will. They are coerced into prostitution, but we need to send a message that this modern day slavery will not be tolerated in our country. That is why this legislation is being put in place.

I never thought of a young woman as a commodity, but these women are bought and sold to maximise profits. It is a multi-billion dollar business and we need to prosecute these crimes immediately. A few years ago, the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy McDowell, made a serious move when he closed many lap dancing clubs in this city. It was a good move because he obviously had information that there was an east European gangster element involved. He took the tough decision to close these clubs and I am sure he stopped an increase in human trafficking. Some of these clubs were bringing in girls against their own free will. I am not saying that all lap dancing clubs are involved in such activities, but on this occasion he had very definite information and he acted. I have never been a great admirer of Michael McDowell, but I praise him for that.

One of the recommendations of the Irish Refugee Council is that Ireland should sign the Council of Europe's convention on action against trafficking in human beings, as well as the protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons. The Irish Refugee 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 2007 must include provisions for the immediate granting of visas to victims of trafficking on humanitarian grounds. Legislation must be drafted to prosecute traffickers and must be enacted as soon as possible.

In China, the State council, the local party commissions and government agencies attach a huge importance to human trafficking, as do the police, the courts, civil departments, the media, schools, women's federations, trade unions and the even the communist youth league. We all know what's going on in the street. In the last five or ten years we have got so affluent that maybe we do not want to know. It is time for us to be looking out for the tell-tale signs that something is not right. In Sligo and Louth there were cases of young girls being kept against their will. A call to the Garda Síochána would be an idea.

We have also been accused of being too successful in implementing EU directives, but on this occasion we have been lax in implementing directives that would prevent labour exploitation, including directives on working time and agency workers. The local newspaper in Sligo carried a report on a 17 year old west African girl who came to the attention of gardaí while working as a prostitute in the area. It emerged that she was a minor and had been trafficked to a country where it was intended she would be exploited by a prostitution ring. While we may not get rid of this type of outrageous crime, if the information is passed on to the Garda Síochána or the relevant authorities, it certainly can be curtailed. Although this debate has been worthwhile, information is required and I call on people who notice something unusual to bring their information to the relevant authorities.

Sinn Féin has called for this legislation for several years and we will support it notwithstanding our concerns about its limitations, some of which have been outlined by my colleague, Deputy Ó Snodaigh. In particular, we disagree strongly with the Minister's decision to exclude protection for victims of trafficking from the scope of this Bill. It has become increasingly clear that the official data on the number of persons trafficked to Ireland grossly underestimate the real extent of the problem. These victims cannot wait until the passage of the immigration Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas. I believe that failing to ensure that victims can come forward without risk of arrest, imprisonment and deportation will also undermine the effectiveness of the Bill before the House today. Consequently, I urge the Minister to reconsider this matter, which has been raised by a number of Deputies during the course of Second Stage debate, and to bring forward protection measures when the Bill is debated on Committee Stage. It would be very helpful to signal clearly such intent in the concluding remarks to Second Stage.

While there is no question that this legislation is needed, we must be realistic about what it can achieve. The vast majority of trafficking victims in this State are trafficked to the State from another country where this law will not apply and where the sanctions it contains will have no deterrent effect. Hopefully they will deter some of those who will be on the receiving end of the trafficking chain in this State and we support the sanctions on that basis. However, the likelihood is that this will simply divert the problem rather than prevent it. The traffickers will find another country to which to send their victims. From a human rights perspective, therefore, measures such as the proposed legislation are not sufficient in themselves and do not stop people from falling victim to human trafficking in the first place.

By focusing excessively on the criminal justice aspect of the problem there is a danger that we are simply closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. The Minister in his opening remarks referred to the different levels on which human trafficking is being targeted. He omitted one aspect which I think is very important and which his colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, touched upon last week in his response to a parliamentary question. He stated:

The majority of people have no wish to uproot themselves from their communities, frequently leaving their families behind, to undertake often dangerous journeys to unknown and uncertain destinations. If people are provided with a minimum level of economic opportunity and the security provided by a functioning accountable Government and basic public services, they will choose to stay in their own countries, towns and villages.

In this instance, the Minister referred to asylum seekers but a similar statement can be made about many of those who fall victim to human traffickers while trying to find employment. They are given the promise of work abroad, earning significantly more than they could in their home country where, in most cases, life is a day to day struggle to provide for their families. Were opportunities available to them at home, far fewer would be vulnerable to the approach of traffickers. From our own experience in Ireland, we are familiar with the relationship between standards of living and outward migration. There is also a clear link between abject poverty and child trafficking as parents in dire circumstances — I suggest circumstances absolutely beyond our imagining — may come under extreme economic pressure to sell their own children. These children may end up as sex slaves, labourers, domestic servants, child soldiers and worse.

Poverty is the underlying issue and the prevention of human trafficking must start with real measures to address it. Ireland alone cannot resolve this problem, but we could do much more about it. We could play a constructive role in challenging the structural adjustment programmes that leave developing countries in debt bondage to the West. We could lobby for power to be given to the United Nations Economic and Social Council to ensure fair regulation of the global economy. We could stand up to US imperialism rather than facilitating it through the use of our airports. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform spoke of the need to take a holistic approach to trafficking, and I agree with him, but a truly holistic approach would begin with a genuine effort to eradicate the negative factors that lead people to leave their homes in the first place. That is the starting point; that is where we must begin.

The Minister also referred to the immigration aspect of human trafficking. I am concerned that we are adopting a dangerous approach to this aspect, relying on increased border controls as a solution. Ireland, like all western states, has tightened its borders considerably in the past decade and during this time the problem of human trafficking to the West has grown and worsened. It is clear the controls are not operating as deterrents to traffickers who know how to get around them and how to use them to their own advantage. Such controls close down the options available for safe and legal migration so that people who believe they need to leave their home, whether out of fear, danger or economic necessity, have recourse only to unsafe and-or illegal options. Sadly, if this means turning to traffickers, they will do so.

Some studies suggest that up to 50% of all trafficking victims have been retrafficked, that after returning or being forcibly returned to their home country, they wind up being trafficked again because the conditions that led them to leave home in the first place remain unchanged and they have no other means of escape. It is hard for people in Ireland, which is now one of the wealthiest countries in the world, to imagine the desperation that could drive someone into the arms of traffickers not once but twice or more often. However, the evidence is there and it is indisputable. Migration is increasing on a global level and clearly it cannot be stopped simply by border tightening. If the international community is serious about preventing people from falling into the hands of traffickers, we must address the dearth of options available for safe and legal migration.

In some cases, the issue of border controls may not even arise. People can be and are trafficked within state borders. Their traffickers may also be in a position to obtain valid visas and work permits for them, usually for a substantial fee. In a recent study by Migrant Rights Centre Ireland entitled No Way Forward, No Going Back: Identifying the problem of trafficking for forced labour in Ireland, only one of the victims interviewed had been smuggled into this State. In the other cases, the traffickers made use of our immigration laws to provide a means by which the victims could enter the country and a means to bind them to their abusive employers. There is a tendency for these workers to be overlooked when the subject of trafficking is discussed. They may be seen simply as victims of labour exploitation. The victims interviewed in the report I cited did not identify themselves as having been trafficked. Many of them blamed themselves for having trusted the person or persons who promised them a better life. It is important to remember that the internationally accepted definition of human trafficking, as contained in the UN Palermo Protocols, makes clear that trafficking occurs when fraud or deception is used to control a person for purposes of exploitation. There must be no exclusion of these workers from the protection made available to victims of trafficking. All too sadly, I reflect that there are many of those of whom I speak in every constituency across the State.

In this regard, I call on the Government to strengthen its efforts in the fight against labour exploitation. The recent decision to opt out of an EU directive penalising employers who knowingly hire trafficking victims, repeatedly violate fair employment practices or are particularly exploitative is extremely disappointing. That it was done at the behest of IBEC, who complained about the bureaucracy that companies would be subjected to, is nothing short of reprehensible. It calls into question the Government's commitment to tackling the problem of human trafficking. I also note that with the ending of the Common Travel Area, the Government will lose one of its excuses why it cannot ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. I urge that we revisit that issue and ratify the convention without delay. Again, I respectfully request that in his closing remarks the Minister of State should give a clear indication of intent in that regard.

While there is much more that needs to be done to address the problem of human trafficking, I welcome the fact that we are at last taking the elementary steps contained in this legislation. I hope the Minister and his colleagues consider the other issues I have raised so that we can work toward developing a truly holistic approach. I conclude by asking the Minister once more to reconsider the decision to delay the introduction of protection measures for trafficking victims. It appears that the Opposition Members are united on this matter. We are not taking this position merely for the sake of political opposition. It is a crucial element in fighting trafficking, an issue on which all parties in this Chamber should and must find common cause. We must help to restore the dignity and human rights of those men, women and children abused by this terrible crime.

I thank the many Deputies who contributed to this debate for their generally positive comments. It is clear that we all share an abhorrence of the evil trade of trafficking in human beings and wish not only to tackle it in Ireland but to contribute to tackling it internationally through police co-operation and heightened awareness.

The provisions of the Bill were generally well received and the debate centred largely on what is not in the Bill. Deputy Clune and a number of others concentrated on that area in their contributions. Their chief concern was the protection of victims. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, mentioned in his opening address that he was adopting a holistic approach to the challenge of dealing with trafficking. I will not repeat in detail how he is giving effect to that policy as it is on the record of the House. This Bill represents one of four strands of a comprehensive strategy to tackle trafficking in human beings. All four strands will develop side by side so that, for example, the establishment of criminal offences, the creation of a more structured scheme of victim protection, and the provision of services to victims will take place contemporaneously.

Our goals in the field of trafficking are to ensure that the criminal gangs involved in this evil trade are put out of business and that victims will have no fear in giving evidence in court, and to ratify the relevant international instruments, particularly the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Before this can be done, the proper structures will have to be in place. Chapter VII of the convention establishes a strict monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the convention by GRETA, the group of experts on action against trafficking in human beings. The evaluation procedure for the parties to the convention may include country visits. That is, as the Minister explained in his opening address, why this legislation alone is not sufficient for ratification of the convention. For this reason he has established a high-level group to recommend the most appropriate and effective response to protecting victims in line with the requirements of the Council of Europe convention. Where legislation is needed, such as in criminal and immigration law, it is being provided, and where administrative measures are required they will also be provided. Deputies can be assured that victims of trafficking will receive all the necessary protection and services that are provided for in the United Nations and Council of Europe instruments on trafficking. If we cannot do that, we cannot ratify these instruments.

Ireland's participation in the police co-operation provisions of the new reform treaty was mentioned by Deputies Naughten, Creighton and Coveney. Ireland has always been positive in terms of building up practical police co-operation between the member states and we have strongly supported the adoption of EU initiatives in this field. These have covered, in particular, improved sharing of information and other operational measures to prevent and detect serious cross-border crime. There will be no change in Ireland's general approach to police co-operation under the arrangements made for Ireland under the new treaty and we will actively pursue our policy of strengthening such co-operation.

The Government attached particular importance to police co-operation when it considered the arrangements to be made for justice and home affairs matters under the reform treaty. This is reflected in the declaration the Government has submitted in connection with the treaty, which specifically states: "Ireland will, in particular, participate to the maximum possible extent in measures in the field of police co-operation". The declaration confirms the importance of police co-operation for Ireland and when it comes to the practical aspects of improving co-operation there will not be any difficulty with Irish participation. The Minister outlined in his opening speech the level of Garda involvement at present in international co-operation to tackle the trade in trafficking in human beings and this will, if anything, intensify over the coming years.

Deputies Rabbitte, Enright and Coveney raised the question of rebalancing the law with regard to supply of and demand for the services of prostitutes, which has also been discussed widely outside the House. Some countries have created an offence of paying for sex. Opinion is divided on whether that policy has been successful. It is accepted by many experts that it reduces street prostitution but that there is a corresponding increase in prostitution via the Internet and mobile phone. The simple truth is that a change in the law does not in itself reduce demand. It re-emerges in other ways. Some reports indicate that demand increases in neighbouring countries, and there are also reports of the phenomenon of "sex ships" or floating brothels in international waters.

A change in law for the purpose of reducing the level of street prostitution would have little impact in Ireland. Public soliciting is already an offence. The offence can be committed by the client or by a third party such as a pimp as well as by the prostitute. Prostitution and being a prostitute are not offences in this country. The offence, as I said, is one of publicly soliciting. In other words, the law makes no moral judgment but simply protects communities from the nuisance caused by public soliciting. We should not assume other countries have better policies than ours.

An allied question raised by Deputy Coveney is whether we should create an offence of having sex with a trafficked person. Such an offence would be impossible to prosecute and could be counter-productive. As mentioned by a number of speakers during the debate, trafficked women are usually kept in circumstances in which they have little contact with persons other than their clients. In such cases a person's best hope of being discovered and freed from the control of traffickers is for a client who suspects that the person has been trafficked to tip off the authorities. However, the client is less likely to do so if he leaves himself open to prosecution. The answer lies in greater public awareness of the sad plight of trafficked persons. The G6 initiative to which the Minister made reference in his opening speech will have four strands of activity. Ireland will lead the strand on awareness and will host an international meeting in Dublin next January.

Finally on this point, any person who has sex with a child, whether trafficked or not, commits a serious offence. Also, if a person has sex with an adult against her will, the crime of rape may have been committed.

I will deal with a number of the other questions and issues raised by Deputies in the course of the debate. Deputy Naughten questioned excluding the press from court proceedings in trafficking cases. The press is not being specifically excluded. Section 10 removes an automatic right of the press to be present which is found in some analogous legislation such as the Rape Acts. The judge will have the power to allow members of the press to be present; it will be at the judge's discretion. The reason the press is not being given an automatic right to be present is that some members of the press from, say, the victim's home country, may wish to be present but their bona fides may be difficult to establish. The significant difference between alleged rape victims and alleged victims of trafficking is that the life of the trafficking victim and possibly that of her family and relatives in the home country may be at risk from persons who would stop at nothing to prevent evidence being given in court.

Deputy Naughten also referred to the operation of the sex offenders register. The register has operated quite successfully since its introduction over six years ago. Unfortunately, there are now over 1,000 names on it. However, after six years it is due for a complete appraisal of its operation and this is now well under way in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. A new sex offences Bill will almost certainly include several changes to what is more accurately called the notification system.

Deputies Rabbitte and O'Rourke asked if the periods of reflection and recovery would be placed on a statutory basis and the answer is yes, in the forthcoming immigration, residence and protection Bill. Subject to Government approval, Deputies will have an opportunity to examine and debate the Minister's proposals once the Bill is published.

Deputy Naughten said there had been no convictions under the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 and the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000. While he is correct that there have been no trafficking convictions under the 1998 Act, there has been a recent conviction under the 2000 Act.

That is good to hear.

Nonetheless, the Minister is reviewing the 2000 Act and will be recommending changes to it in due course.

Deputies Terence Flanagan and Feighan mentioned that we had not signed the Council of Europe convention against trafficking. In fact, Ireland signed the Council of Europe convention on 13 April 2007. Deputy Flanagan also inquired about the confidentiality of reporting suspected cases of trafficking and whether a dedicated website or telephone number was available. The Minister is not convinced that a website would be the best way of communicating with victims of trafficking or for reporting suspected cases. Last year Crimestoppers ran a campaign which provided a telephone helpline for potential trafficking cases and the number of calls made to the helpline was minimal. Various awareness raising initiatives are at present being examined as part of the G6 initiative. I already mentioned that we are leading the strand on the awareness project and will co-lead with the UK the strand on victim protection. At present the Garda Síochána is assisting Ruhama with an awareness campaign and the progress of this is being monitored before decisions are taken on the next steps. The awareness campaign is designed to encourage women who are engaged in prostitution and may be victims of trafficking to make contact with Ruhama so that they can be offered assistance and support. Regular contact is maintained between the Garda National Immigration Bureau and Ruhama to ensure that victim welfare is prioritised in dealing with suspected cases of human trafficking and that those engaged in the criminal acts are brought to justice.

A number of Members paid tribute to the work being done by Ruhama and, indeed, inquired about funding. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform, through the Probation Service, provides funding for Ruhama. This amounted to €275,000 this year. It received a similar amount last year. Ruhama also received about €380,000 under phase I of the equality for women measure. This was provided over a three year period that commenced in 2001. In addition, Ruhama received this year from the Department €50,000 towards the provision of a court accompaniment service scheme and direct victim support. This included an element of salary costs for a trafficking co-ordinator to enable Ruhama to make contact with and provide support to women who are trafficked into Ireland. We are very much aware of the good work they are doing and are quite happy to assist them in that important work.

Deputies Enright and Cuffe also raised the issue of Garda training, and Deputy Feighan wondered how qualified we were and what sort of resources we had to deal with the situation. A total of 150 police officers from the Garda Síochána and the PSNI have been trained in prevention, protection and prosecution measures relating to trafficking in human beings in the period 2006-07. The officers who received the training were selected as being those most likely to encounter victims of trafficking in border, immigration and detective units nationwide. The training was designed by An Garda Síochána in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migration. Non-governmental organisations such as Ruhama and Migrants Rights Centre Ireland gave presentations to participants based on their experience from interaction with the victims of trafficking.

Deputy Naughten alleged that passports issued by Irish embassies abroad are of inferior quality to those issued by the Passport Office in Dublin. This is a point with which we could be keen to deal. The Minister mentioned in his opening address that while false or stolen documents are an inevitable feature of smuggling, it is not necessarily a feature of trafficking. Nonetheless, it is important that the record be put straight on the integrity of Irish passports. I am informed that since the introduction of the automated passport system in late 2004, production of passports has been centralised in Dublin. Applications submitted abroad are sent electronically to Dublin for passport production. The passports are highly secure with the holder's details laser engraved on a polycarbonate data page. Passport security was further upgraded last year with the introduction of the e-passport which includes an integrated circuit, or chip, embedded in the data page. The chip stores the biographical information and a digital photograph of the passport holder. This is the same detail that is displayed on the data page. The chip is locked and the data on it cannot be changed.

In urgent situations embassies and missions abroad can issue an emergency passport which is of limited validity, usually not more than 11 months. This passport has its own security and is laser printed so that photo substitution cannot take place. Handwritten passports are no longer issued.

Deputy O'Rourke would like to see a non-punishment clause for victims of trafficking in the Bill, as provided for in the Council of Europe convention. Article 26 of the Convention states:

Each Party shall, in accordance with the basic principles of its legal system, provide for the possibility of not imposing penalties on victims for their involvement in unlawful activities, to the extent that they have been compelled to do so.

This is a greatly watered down version of the text of the original article. Many countries, including Ireland, could not agree to a non-prosecution clause as, in our case, it would interfere with the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Once a prosecution has been initiated we could not interfere with the independence of the courts. We could not, for example, provide a criminal offence in our laws and tell the courts that in certain circumstances they could not impose a penalty on conviction. That is why Article 26 is worded in a way that allows countries to implement it in a way that is compatible with their legal system. In our case, it is incompatible with our legal system. What is compatible with our legal system is the power of the DPP to use his discretion on whether to prosecute in each case.

There is some confusion as to the number of persons trafficked into Ireland and the number trafficked worldwide. The numbers vary widely and this is not surprising for such a clandestine activity. The recently published research project funded and supported by the National University of Ireland, Galway, estimated the probable minimum number of women trafficked into Ireland for sexual exploitation since 2000 as 76. A number of Members in their contributions stated that this is an area where it can be difficult to have accurate figures such is the nature of the game, but that is the most recent figure we were given.

One of the problems at present in estimating the numbers is the confusion between smuggling and trafficking. This is readily conceded in the research. Researchers allowed those interviewed to offer their own definitions of trafficking thus allowing for and containing disputing views. This is not a criticism of the research; we did not have a single definition of trafficking which clearly distinguished it from smuggling. In future, with the definition of trafficking in the Bill, there will be no confusion and it may be easier to estimate with more confidence the numbers trafficked into Ireland.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh raised the question of children being trafficked for adoption. In the context of adoption, trafficking is not an issue. Other issues may arise, such as smuggling and the payment of money to so called intermediaries.

I understand the Department of Health and Children is drafting legislation that will allow for ratification of the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. Considerable progress has been made in drafting this legislation and it is expected the Bill will be published around the end of the year. A core principle of the Hague Convention is that inter-country adoption should be child-centred and that in all stages, the child's interests must be paramount. Adopting across international borders brings with it many more issues than those that apply to children adopted domestically. Legislation and specifically the regime of the Hague Convention are assurances for individual children, their families and the State that appropriate procedures have been followed and that the adoption was effected in the best interests of the child.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also referred to children being trafficked for the purposes of welfare fraud and ritual killing. Again, if that were to happen it would, most likely, constitute smuggling and if ever identified could be prosecuted under other legislation. It is important to distinguish smuggling from trafficking. That is one of the primary purposes of this legislation and in that context we should comply with international understandings of what constitutes trafficking. Otherwise, we would be back in a position of uncertainty and confusion.

Deputy Costello inquired why Ireland has not implemented the European directives on working time and agency workers. I am informed that both directives are still in draft form and that negotiations on them are continuing. There is nothing in the present text of the working time directive that is of concern to Ireland but apparently several other countries have reservations which have caused the negotiations to stall. With several other member states, we are concerned with the text of the agency workers directive. In our case the concern relates to how long should elapse before pay parity should become obligatory.

Deputy Creighton referred to the EU Council Directive 2004/817 EC on the residence permit issued to third country nationals who are victims of trafficking or who have been the subject of an action to facilitate illegal immigration, who co-operate with the competent authorities. This directive was adopted by Council in April 2004. Ireland is not bound by or subject to the directive. However, under the fourth protocol to the Treaty of Amsterdam, Ireland may decide to opt to participate in the instrument. In this regard, the question of participating in the directive remains under consideration. The Council of Europe convention is more extensive than the directive, although the instruments share common features as regards provision for a period of recovery and reflection and in certain circumstances the issue of a residency permit.

It has not been possible to respond to all the issues raised by Members but I hope I have responded to the main points raised in the debate. If Members wish to have further clarification they can feel free to make contact with the Department and we will do our best to respond to them. The debate ranged widely, sometimes away from the immediate purpose and content of the Bill but was no less interesting for that. It is to be hoped Committee Stage will be equally constructive and that this short but important Bill can be enacted without undue delay. I thank Members for their contributions which were much appreciated. It is unusual to have such agreement on proposed legislation.

Question put and agreed to.