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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 27 Jan 2022

Vol. 1017 No. 1

Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2022: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and to provide for related matters.

Before I start, I wish to take a very brief moment to acknowledge today as Holocaust Memorial Day.

We did it before the Deputy came in.

I did not do it, a Cheann Comhairle, and therefore I want to associate myself with the remarks of other Deputies.

My Bill looks at improving Ireland's response to human trafficking. Quite simply, it is fair to say we are failing as a nation to address the scourge of human trafficking.

If we look at the Trafficking in Persons, TIP, Report produced by the US State Department,124 countries are ranked higher than us, that is, doing more than we are in this regard. In June 2020, we fell to the tier 2 watchlist. In June 2021, we were still on the tier 2 watchlist. After two years on the tier 2 watchlist, there is an automatic falling to tier 3, which brings with it all sorts of consequences for our State with regard to our relationship with America. Really, however, this is not about self-interest. Behind the TIP Report are a huge number of vulnerable victims whom we are ultimately failing.

If we look at the exposé by both The Guardian and the International Transport Workers Federation of the fishing industry, we see the brutal conditions to which victims of trafficking and labour exploitation are often exposed. There is a major issue of sexual exploitation and forced work in this country.

The Amnesty International report released the other day showed exactly the dangers to which those people in forced sex work positions are exposed. The Global Slavery Index estimates there are 8,000 victims of trafficking in Ireland, but in 2020 we identified only 38. It was the fourth year in a row where the number of victims of trafficking we identified had fallen. Our response to trafficking and our ability to identify victims of it is getting worse.

Until 2021, there were no successful prosecutions with regard to human trafficking. We need to change the way in which we engage with the recognition of victims and how we provide support to give them the safety to come out and be able to talk about their experiences. We must support and make it easier for them to do that.

My Bill introduces an early identification system that is much broader than the current system, which only allows for the Garda. It includes social workers, support workers, NGOs and trade unions. These are people who will be dealing more directly with the victims of trafficking and who can contribute to their early identification. It includes a system of supports for victims so they are not left abandoned and alone. It includes issues around immunity from prosecution, which is an essential element, particularly if someone is being trafficked here and forced to engage in criminal behaviour. The immunity is needed for such a person to be able to escape the situation he or she is in. It also includes the appointment of a guardian ad litem to child victims so that our focus on the most vulnerable victims of trafficking is improved.

I have been working on this Bill for some time. In recent months, the Government announced its intention to review the referral mechanism. Since that intention was announced last year, we have had no further details. It is not just about the referral mechanism. It is about supports in and around that, for example, as I mentioned earlier, guardian ad litem supports for victims and the issue of immunity. These are all the essential elements of responding to human trafficking and our better support of victims.

There have been efforts at awareness campaigns but we need more than awareness campaigns. We need to review and reform the structure around the identification of victims and the supports they get so that it is easier for them to be identified and to seek and be given help. That is the reason I move this Bill.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1.15 p.m. and resumed at 1.55 p.m.