Priority Questions.

Crime Levels.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

39 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if, having regard to the fact that the murder rate in the State is now the highest since the Civil War, he will outline the steps he proposes to take to deal with the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27353/07]

The number of murders is a matter of concern to me and the Government. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that 57 murders have been recorded to date in 2007, whereas 60 murders were recorded in 2006 as a whole. I have also been informed that 35 of this year's murders have been detected, which corresponds to a detection rate of 61%. Some 36 of the murders which took place in 2006 have been detected, which corresponds to a detection rate of 60%. The detection rate for murders in 2007, excluding those in which a firearm was used, is significantly higher at 78%. I have been informed by the Garda authorities that the number of murders to date this year involving firearms, most of which are attributable to so-called "gangland" or "organised" crime, is 17. This shows no increase on the figure for the same period last year. Therefore, the increase in the number of murders so far this year is not due to an increase in gang-related activity. Having said that, the level of such killings clearly remains a cause for great concern. Many murders involve acquaintances as victims and as perpetrators. It is regrettable that some killings stem from domestic violence. As the figures I have just given indicate, the Garda Síochána has an excellent record in apprehending the perpetrators in such cases. Detections in cases of organised crime are more difficult to achieve, however, as some people will stop at nothing, including killing others, to protect their drug or other criminal activity. Not only are they prepared to intimidate witnesses and their families, but they are also forensically very aware and skilled in destroying evidence.

The number of deaths involving knives is a cause for concern. We have strong penalties for offences involving knives, but we have to continue to get the message across to young people, in particular, that carrying around knives is dangerous and wrong. As part of its policing plan for next year, the Garda plans to launch an education and awareness raising programme aimed at discouraging people, especially young people and teenagers, from carrying knives. The force will also take rigorous action under the criminal law against people found carrying knives. A new agency, COSC, has been established to give priority to tackling the broad issue of domestic violence, with a particular objective of treating all instances of domestic violence as the appalling crimes they are. The Garda Commissioner has recently announced significant enhancementsto the way in which the investigation ofmajor crimes will be managed by the Garda Síochána.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

In addition to the recently announced appointment of 21 divisional detective inspectors and additional regional detective superintendents, a senior investigating officer will take charge of each serious crime investigation. Each serious crime will have a designated incident room co-ordinator. Over the lifetime of this and the last Government, we have significantly increased the strength of the Garda. The programme for Government reaffirms the commitment to a Garda strength of 15,000 by 2010 and commits the Government to increasing the strength of the force further to 16,000 by 2012. The Garda budget for this year stands at €1.44 billion compared with just over €900 million five years ago. This increase in resources is enabling the strength of the force to be increased and providing for high levels of overtime and increased civilian support. The force is pursuing an extensive programme of building, fleet modernisation, purchase of protective equipment and training. A major programme of investment in technology is under way, including a new national digital radio system, a major incident computer system and an automated fingerprint identification system. While we have seen extensive changes in the criminal law in recent years, I will introduce further legislative proposals, including a Bill to create a national DNA database. This will assist the Garda in bringing perpetrators to justice, including in cases of murder.

I would like to comment on the statistics produced by the Minister in response to my question. The forces of law and order in the State appear to be losing the battle against so-called "gangland" or "organised" crime. The 21 fatal shootings in 2005 led to just two convictions. The 27 gun murders in 2006 led to just five prosecutions, with no convictions to date. There have been 17 gangland gun murders this year, with just one prosecution pending. Such statistics are causing serious concern in communities throughout the country. Does the Minister agree that an intense and sustained programme of pressure is needed if we are to combat gang lords, bosses and members? Will the Minister give the House details of the legislative response he is considering? When the Taoiseach recently addressed this issue, he mentioned the possibility of introducing special courts to deal with crimes of this nature. What is the Minister's response to that suggestion? When speaking in Templemore recently, the Minister suggested that legislation could be introduced to accord greater powers of surveillance to the Garda. He proposed that the force be allowed to use bugging devices, for example. Can he expand on his ideas in that regard?

I would like to speak about the resources that have been allocated to deal with serious crime. The Garda budget for this year is €1.44 billion, compared with just over €900 million five years ago. Garda overtime will cost approximately €140 million this year.

I did not ask about that.

A great deal of that money is being spent as part of Operation Anvil, under which the relentless pressure advocated by Deputy Flanagan is being placed on criminal gangs. The events of recent days show that results can be obtained if patience is exercised. Such results are being obtained by the Garda.

I would like to speak about the steps being taken by the Garda to combat the growth of organised crime. The Garda authorities utilise intelligence-led operations to target organised crime gangs. All available intelligence is fully analysed and used in the strategic deployment of local and specialised operational Garda units to target particular gangs. Organised crime is being targeted on a number of fronts. Uniform and plain-clothes gardaí are overtly and covertly disrupting known criminals in the course of criminal activities. Specialist units from the national support services are also assisting operations which are dealing with various aspects of this type of criminal activity. The organised crime unit of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which was established in November 2005, has been expanded. It now has 70 members working full-time to target the various criminal groups which operate throughout the country. The unit works closely with other specialist units, including the Garda national drugs unit, the special detective unit and the emergency response unit, to target those suspected of involvement in organised criminal activity. Operation Anvil, which started in 2005 and was expanded regionally last year, is an intelligence-led policing initiative. The focus of the operation is the targeting of active criminals and their associates who are involved in serious crime by preventing and disrupting their criminal activity through extensive additional overt patrolling, such as static checkpoints by uniformed officers and mobile and footpatrols.

The time for this question has expired.

In fairness——

The other matters are down for reply under separate questions.

In fairness to the House, the Minister made no reference to the points I made about legislation or the question I asked about the Taoiseach's comments on special courts.

The Chair has no responsibility in relation to——

I would like it recorded.

——the answer that a Minister may or may not give.

The Deputy referred to the Civil War in his question.

I would like it recorded that the Minister is clearly abdicating his responsibility to the House.

We must move on to Question No. 40. The time for Deputy Flanagan's question has expired.

I accept the Chair's ruling.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

40 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform his views on the Central Statistics Office crime statistics for the third quarter of 2007; his further views on the continuing high level of crime and anti-social behaviour; the steps he will take to deal with this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27394/07]

The provisional headline crime figures for the third quarter of 2007, which were released by the Central Statistics Office recently, show that there was no increase in headline crime in the 12-month period to 30 September last. This positive outcome has been achieved despite the continuing steady rise in the population over that period. There was an increase of 2.8% in headline crime in the third quarter of the year, compared with the same quarter last year. This compares with an increase of 4% in the second quarter of this year. Some successes in combating crime are reflected in the improving trend, but a great deal of work remains to be done. The biggest challenges to be faced are the level of gangland crime and the number of murders being committed. The detection rate achieved by the Garda for murders which are not committed by firearms is excellent. Detections for murders related to organised crime, which account for most murders committed by firearms, are more difficult to achieve. This is a matter of concern, even if such murders make up a minority of all murders — 17 out of the 57 murders recorded to date in 2007. The significant improvements in the way major crimes are investigated, which were recently announced by the Garda Commissioner, will help to improve all detection rates, including those for murders connected with organised crime.

We recently learned of a number of successful operations by the Garda which resulted in the arrest and charging of a number of people following the recovery of drugs and firearms and the foiled robbery of cash in transit. It is relentless activity of this type by the Garda Síochána, under Operation Anvil in particular, which has contributed to the statistics for the third quarter showing significant reductions in the number of robberies of cash and goods in transit, down 71% in the quarter, and of robberies of an establishment or institution, down 12%.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I welcome the increases in the number of detections for possession of drugs for sale or supply, up 26% in the year to date, and of cultivation, manufacture and importation of drugs, up 55%, which were also the result of such police work directed against those involved in organised and drug crime.

I am pleased to note that the third quarter figures also show a reduction in the overall figure for sexual crimes, down 5% in the quarter and 9% in the year to date. All five sexual crime categories showed a reduction or no change during the quarter. The figures for sexual crimes no longer show the steep declines experienced in earlier quarters. I hope that any reluctance on the part of victims to report sexual crimes, as a result of publicity surrounding court cases last year, has now dissipated and the figures better reflect the underlying reality.

The Garda Síochána Act gives the Minister the power to determine priorities for the Garda Síochána. I recently published the policing priorities for 2008. These priorities set clear objectives for the Garda Síochána which the Garda Commissioner must take into account in drawing up his policing plan for 2008. The priorities I have set show what the Government and I consider should be the focus of policing activity in crime prevention and detection.

One of the policing priorities I have identified for the Garda Síochána for 2008 is to combat, in co-operation with other agencies and the community generally, the problems of public disorder with particular emphasis on alcohol-related behaviour, including under age drinking. Combating public disorder and anti-social behaviour has been a Garda priority for some time. Operation Encounter was commenced in 2002 and targets public disorder and anti-social behaviour by specifically targeting offences contrary to public order and intoxicating liquor legislation, including the sale and consumption of alcohol by under age persons.

I am informed that all members of the Garda Síochána proactively target public disorder and anti-social behaviour and pay particular attention to areas subject to such behaviour and which have been identified as hot spots by local Garda management. Additional foot and mobile patrols are directed to these areas during the times when these offences are most likely to occur. All such incidents detected by gardaí or reported to the Garda Síochána are dealt with as quickly as possible and suspected offenders are dealt with in accordance with the law.

I recognise, as does every Member of the House and all public representatives, that anti-social behaviour can cause great distress to individuals and communities. I wish to assure Deputies that we will continue to take all measures which are open to us to address this issue.

The report from the Central Statistics Office makes grim reading, as I am sure the Minister will agree. Deputy Flanagan has asked a question about gun murders so I wish to ask about anti-social behaviour. I will instance my question by telling the House about a man who visited my clinic last Saturday. He is a single man and a night worker. Local youths know his pattern of work. They break into his property frequently; they urinate through the letter-box; they damage his property; and they send for takeaways in order to have people call to the door to test if he is in. He is forced to stay at home on occasion to defend his property when the windows are broken. He is now threatened by his employer who cannot continue to tolerate this man's absence from his duties as a night worker. Yet, the housing authority will not respond and neither will the Garda Síochána. What is that man supposed to do? I ask the Minister to instance in simple language three things he will do differently from his predecessor in this area of anti-social behaviour.

I readily accept that anti-social behaviour can make a person's life a misery. One of the priorities in dealing with anti-social behaviour is the need to address alcohol-related behaviour. I have set this priority out in my policing priorities for 2008. The Garda Síochána will drive forward the establishment of inter-agency activities working with the local authorities against anti-social behaviour, including the deployment of CCTV in urban areas. The Garda Síochána should identify local public order and anti-social behaviour hot spots and develop responsive actions and plans. The programme for Government outlines measures which will further tackle anti-social behaviour.

Extensive powers under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2003 enable the Garda Síochána to deal with street violence and anti-social behaviour. The 2003 Act also provides the Garda with additional powers to deal with late night street violence and anti-social conduct attributable to excessive drinking. The 2006 Act provides for the anti-social behaviour orders and this regime includes——

In practical terms, how does that affect my constituent who, like in the Minister's own constituency, is not alone? Anybody who is alone or old or vulnerable is targeted by these young thugs. They do not necessarily have any alcohol on board, yet they torment and persecute people living in their homes. The Minister points reasonably to the powers that exist but these powers are not being exercised. This man can get no relief either from the housing authority or the Garda Síochána. Community policing is under-resourced in the area and his life is a misery. He is only one of a large number of people known to me in the belt of west Tallaght, such as women living alone, lone parents, immigrants and people of a different race. This is a problem not only in the gun murder area and it is an intolerable situation. What practical advice can the Minister give to my constituent?

The time for this question has expired and I must move on to Question No. 41 in the name of Deputy Charles Flanagan.

Time waits for no man.

I remind Deputy Flanagan these are Priority Questions and there is a reason for it.

I can suggest a couple.

Victim Impact Statements.

Charles Flanagan

Question:

41 Deputy Charles Flanagan asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the changes he proposes to introduce on the matter of victim impact statements submitted to the courts in criminal cases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27354/07]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 41 and 50 together.

Unfortunately, the Minister cannot take Questions Nos. 41 and 50 together because Question No. 50 is an Oral Question and Question No. 41 is a Priority Question and a Priority Question may not be grouped with an Oral Question. The Minister will be required to answer Question No. 41 on its own.

I apologise to the House.

Victim impact statements are among the most effective mechanisms available to ensure the interests and concerns of the victims of crime are brought to bear on the criminal justice process. As section 5 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993 puts it, the court, before passing sentence, is required to take into account any effect, whether long term or otherwise, of the offence on the person in respect of whom the offence was committed. This is one of the rare instances where the court is specifically directed as to a matter to be taken into account at the sentencing stage; courts otherwise, other than in murder cases, have a very large measure of discretion as to the matters to be considered in the context of determining the appropriate sentence. As a result of the procedure under section 5 of the 1993 Act, victims can expect to have a level of involvement beyond that of a mere witness.

I am aware of the recent debate about victim impact statements which I have followed with close interest. As we are all aware, the debate arises from a particularly difficult and tragic case. In those circumstances, I felt it was better for me as Minister not to become involved in the discussion. That is not to say that either I or my Department are not reflecting on the issues and may, if considered necessary and appropriate, bring forward proposals which will address any defect in the current arrangements or which may enhance further the role of the victim.

The reflection I have referred to takes account not only of the recent debate but also includes consideration of the very helpful comments made by the balance in the criminal law review group, chaired by Dr. Gerard Hogan SC, in its report earlier this year. With regard to the current arrangements under section 5 of the 1993 Act, the review group suggests the section may be too restrictive in so far as it permits a statement by or on behalf of the direct victim only.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

It suggests there is a case for expanding the definition of victim to include other persons intimately affected by the crime. This is frequently the case in homicide cases where the victim is, of course, unavailable but a close relative is, at the court's discretion, permitted to make or provide a statement.

The review group also goes on to discuss the possible use of victim impact statements at the parole or remission stage and places this issue in the context of restorative justice, that is, the victim would have an opportunity to address the perpetrator directly, to make him or her realise more fully the harm that has been done.

In a further recommendation, the review group addressed the possibility of inappropriate use of statements and raised the possibility of restrictions on publication in certain circumstances, at the direction of the court.

I will continue to reflect on and consider how the current system can be improved. In my considerations, I will endeavour to ensure that the victim is allowed as much opportunity as is reasonably possible to have his or her experiences taken into account. However, I must also ensure that, in the interests of all parties, we preserve the integrity of the criminal process and that due process continues to be observed.

Deputies will appreciate the issues involved are complex and require careful consideration. It will, therefore, be necessary to take some time to ensure any proposals are appropriate and well grounded.

It was my intention to formally invite the Minister to make an official comment on recent matters with particular reference to the very trenchant contribution of Mr. Justice Paul Carney and a further contribution of some gravity to the debate by Ms Justice Fidelma Macken, where she spoke in terms of the possibility of warning a victim and went so far as to suggest that perhaps penalties might be imposed on certain victims in certain circumstances. I would have thought it timely for the Minister to respond but I understand he has declined the invitation to make a statement. Does the Minister acknowledge the right of a victim to make a statement? Does he intend to give greater rights to victims of crime by way of access to information and by granting them an entitlement to speak before sentencing? Will he indicate what type of examination is under way within his Department, having regard to the fact that he would rather not comment on the matter?

I indicated that I preferred not to comment on the matter at the time of the controversy and I welcome Deputy Flanagan's tabling of this question. I do not propose to introduce legislation which will penalise a victim in any way. I understand the reason for Ms Justice Macken raising that possibility but I am not disposed to doing that. An examination is being conducted of two of the legal principles involved in particular. One relates to the definition of who is a victim for this purpose. The current arrangement contains a narrow definition of the direct victim. There is a case for expanding the definition of victim to include other persons intimately affected by the crime. This is frequently the case in a homicide case where the victim by definition is unavailable but a close relative can be permitted to make or provide a statement.

With regard to the inappropriate use of statements, the review group suggested that publication and circumstances might be restricted at the discretion of the court and I believe this is a matter we will have to consider.

Will legislation be required?

That would require legislation because any interference with the publicity of the administration of justice has to be specified in legislation. It is clear that were we to give the trial judge power to direct the reporters not to publish particular material which a victim put before a court and which the judge believed would be inappropriate, having regard to his or her sentencing function, then in that situation we would have to consider legislation.

Family Law Courts.

Pat Rabbitte

Question:

42 Deputy Pat Rabbitte asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the recent report (details supplied) commissioned by the Courts Service, which described the Irish family courts system as shambolic and overcrowded; if he will implement the recommendations made in the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27395/07]

Last week, I welcomed the publication of the report of the family law reporting pilot project undertaken by Dr. Carol Coulter at the request of the Courts Service. This project has made a major contribution to our knowledge of the operation of family law in the courts. It has shed much needed light on the family law area and has assisted in debunking many of the myths prevalent in this area, particularly in relation to disputes on child custody and access. I was very pleased to hear that the board of the Courts Service has decided to continue the pilot reporting project for a further year. I pay tribute to my predecessor who laid the legislative foundation for this exercise.

Many of the recommendations fall outside the remit of my powers as Minister and I am glad to hear from the Chief Justice that the board of the Courts Service is to establish a special committee to review the report and implement its recommendations. I look forward to seeing the outcome of the committee's proceedings in due course.

I assure the Deputy that I fully appreciate the seriousness of delays in the hearing of family law cases. The recent Courts and Court Officers (Amendment) Act 2007 provided for an additional 14 judges: six judges of the District Court, four ordinary judges of the Circuit Court and four ordinary judges of the High Court. These additional judges were appointed to deal with delays and speed up the judicial process.

Another issue highlighted by the report is the concern about costs in family law cases. This is a matter I have examined since my appointment. Earlier this year, the Department published the report of the legal costs implementation advisory group. It is my intention to commence work on the drafting of a new Bill to reform the manner in which disputed legal costs are assessed with the allied objective of making the market for civil legal services more predictable, more consistent and more transparent to the consumer. The Bill will also provide for significant improvements to be made in the quality and quantity of the information that a solicitor is required to provide to clients and the manner in which it is to be supplied.

Additional information not supplied on the floor of the House.

I have asked my Department to examine the recommendations concerning the expansion of the Civil Legal Aid scheme and to report back to me as soon as possible.

The report acknowledges the dramatic improvement in court buildings and facilities. The antiquated and shabby court facilities that used to confront users of the family courts are becoming a thing of the past. In Dublin, for example, three new family law courts are now available in Phoenix House, Smithfield. I am advised that these courts, which hear 98% of Dublin's judicial separation and divorce cases, are equipped with eight consultation rooms and other facilities for court users. The Family Law District Court in Phoenix House is currently being upgraded to provide for five new and enlarged courtrooms with adjoining judges' chambers and additional consultation rooms.

Throughout the rest of the country, the capital building programme of the Courts Service has prioritised family law facilities. Over 40 major refurbishment projects have been completed since the establishment of the service and family law facilities have been provided at all major venues. Dedicated family law facilities are also being provided at current and future projects throughout the country.

The report also makes a range of recommendations to enhance the role of mediation. I agree that mediation is important in the key area of dispute resolution and I understand that this approach will be addressed in new Circuit Court rules. The Legal Aid Board is also taking action to promote the use of dispute resolution mechanisms in family law cases. This has incorporated the collaborative law approach as well as structured negotiation techniques and has the potential to be of considerable benefit to those who find themselves in difficult family situations.

The report recognises the value of case progression, that is, ensuring that cases are prepared for trial in a manner that is just, expeditious and likely to minimise costs. I understand that a draft set of case progression rules for family law proceedings in the Circuit Court has been presented to the Circuit Court rules committee for consideration.

The report highlights the value of judicial conferences and training. Funds have been made available by my Department to the Judicial Studies Institute, which was established by the Chief Justice for the purposes of judicial training. I will carefully consider any future proposals in this regard.

This is an important report and it provides a valuable benchmark against which we will be able to monitor future improvements in how we conduct, organise and arrange family law business in our courts.

In this report Dr. Coulter says it is remarkable that the system works at all. She talked about it being shambolic and overcrowded, the lack of uniformity, court lists overcrowded, courts meeting late into the night and a number of other defects were identified and recommendations were made in 1996 in the Law Reform Commission report and not acted upon. I wish to ask the Minister a couple of specific questions. With regard to her recommendation that there ought to be a separate family law division of the Circuit Court, what is his disposition in that regard? On the issue of access by the press to the family courts, with certain restrictions as recommended, what is his attitude to that? In regard to the criticisms by the organisation for separated fathers who have the very definite perception that in many cases they do not get a fair hearing and do not get reasonable access to their children and so on, what is the Minister's view of the complaints advanced in recent years by that organisation? When he talks about the cost of access to the family courts, as he did in his reply, does he intend to take any steps in that regard? It is remarkable that divorce by consent can cost a number of thousands of euro outside of Dublin but many times that in Dublin or in Cork. Why is it more expensive to get divorced in the jurisdiction inside Chapelizod and relatively less expensive outside it?

In regard to the question of family law division the current practical arrangement in the Dublin Circuit Court is that for all practical purposes there is a family law list administered by a number of judges. The Circuit Courts outside Dublin do not have a similar dedicated list which is heard by a group of judges or by a judge sitting alone exclusively dedicating himself or herself to family law cases. That is an issue I propose to address. The more wide-ranging recommendation which was made by the Law Reform Commission for a separate family law division would involve the appointment of judges exclusively to family law cases. I am not satisfied that it would be possible to recruit a corp of judges to do this work exclusively. That said, I am open to change in the sense that I believe judges within the Circuit Court system and within the other courts that had jurisdiction in these matters should be assigned on a permanent basis for a period of years to deal with these cases on a dedicated basis. That is something that was advanced in the report which I have asked my Department to examine.

On the question of press reporting, one of the reasons this area has not come to light for some years is that there is inaccurate reporting and there is no publicity. The constitutional presumption is that justice should be administered in public. That is an important presumption because it allows full and fair criticism to take place of court decisions. My predecessor and the Oireachtas enacted the necessary legislation in 2004 that allowed this research project take place which has thrown light on the operation of the courts system. I very much welcome that. Further recommendations are made in the report about extending publicity in these matters and they are under examination in my Department.

What about the unmarried fathers?

On that issue, it is not appropriate for me to comment on individual decisions or even the trend of decisions in the courts but I believe the publicity thrown on these matters by this report will be helpful in addressing the concerns raised. In regard to costs I am happy to say that mediation is important in these matters.

Asylum Applications.

Denis Naughten

Question:

43 Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of asylum applicants who have gone missing from State provided asylum accommodation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27601/07]

The question appears to imply that asylum seekers are not free to leave state accommodation centres. That is not so. Asylum seekers are not prisoners. They are free to leave such centres, or opt not to avail of the facilities that lie therein from their day of arrival in the state.

However, there is an obligation on asylum seekers to keep the relevant authorities, namely, the Refugee Applications Commissioner and the Office of the Refugee Appeal Tribunal, informed of their current address.

In relation to under aged minors, their accommodation is not the responsibility of my Department, but of the Health Service Executive. Any question which the Deputy may wish to raise on this matter should be put to the Minister for Health and Children.

The Minister will play with words. The fact is that 328 children have gone missing from asylum accommodation provided for children. How many people are there within the asylum process who are unaccounted for? Is it not the case that 5,630 people, based on the Minister's figures, are evading deportation orders and what steps are being taken to ensure those deportation orders are being imposed?

In regard to deportation orders, the Garda National Immigration Bureau enforces these orders and has carriage of this matter and seeks to apprehend these individuals. Flights out of the State are arranged at regular intervals. Persons are apprehended for the purposes of deportation and they are deported. That is how deportation arrangements take place. The Deputy will appreciate that in a free society, such as ours, the resources available to the Department for the enforcement of deportation orders are not limitless. We do not have a compulsory system of registration, for example, of our identification. We do not have the kind of intrusive powers available to the Garda Síochána that would permit it in all cases to instantaneously enforce a deportation order. Likewise our powers of detention in this area are not as extensive as those in other jurisdictions. That said, the Garda National Immigration Bureau is a dedicated part of the force that monitors this issue, monitors trends and movements and keeps a close eye on those who are a threat to our security, public order or who may commit offences. It certainly maintains close surveillance on all these matters and arranges for deportations from time totime.

It is not the case that right throughout Europe the asylum process is being used as a mechanism to facilitate human trafficking? We had an example of that a couple of weeks ago. The Minister is unable to give me any figures for the number of people who are unaccounted for within the asylum process. Is it not the case that there is the possibility that some of these people are being trafficked in to the sex industry? Is it not the case that the Minister has not got a clue what is going on in this area, that there is no way of tracing these people, and whether in regard to deportation orders or people who are unaccounted for within the asylum accommodation system, we do not know what is going on? There are no records, no traceability and the whole thing is a sham.

I do not accept the whole thing is a sham or that we do not know. We are part of a common travel area with Great Britain and because of that there is a substantial amount of movement between both jurisdictions on which we are doing much study at present. It is clear that quite a number of the unaccounted for asylum seekers are in other jurisdictions.

The Deputy is aware that trafficking legislation is now before the House and that Operation Pentameter, which is an intelligence-driven operation to detect the incidence of trafficking throughout these islands, is now under way with the Garda Síochána working closely with the numerous police forces that exist in Great Britain and Northern Ireland to tackle this phenomenon. Regarding asylum claims being used as a cover for trafficking, a number of different routes are used to try to evade our border control legislation. It would not be fair for me, as Minister, to single out the asylum applicant in isolation in that context. There is evidence that persons who have an expired visa and presence in the United Kingdom transfer to this jurisdiction and claim asylum.

If a person being trafficked is from outside the European Union frontiers a variety of devices can be resorted to, whether by seeking a holiday or student visa or by making an asylum claim, that can lead to the person being brought into the jurisdiction. The circumstances are legion in a world of globalisation with a great deal of international movement of persons. However, the Garda is keeping a vigilant eye on the phenomenon and threat of trafficking in this jurisdiction.