I welcome the introduction of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill, which is much needed legislation, particularly as human trafficking is recognised as the third most lucrative international crime after drugs and arms trafficking. Ireland is one of the richest countries in Europe and is a tempting destination for human traffickers. It is important to enact legislation to curb this phenomenon. The Minister estimates that up to 100 people are trafficked into Ireland every year, based on the Ruhama report published in 2007. It is generally acknowledged that the figure could be double that.
While it is important for victims' rights to be protected, there has been an interesting debate on whether this Bill is the correct method to do so. It may not be the correct place for some of the rights under discussion. I must air the concern that, if victims are given residential status based on co-operating with the prosecution of traffickers, it may undermine their human rights and put successful prosecutions in jeopardy if witnesses have been given incentives such as temporary residence permits or social welfare to give evidence against alleged perpetrators. This was recognised by the Minister as creating a danger of evidence being contaminated due to the incentives offered to witnesses and preventing an effective prosecution. Members of my party and of the Government parties have referred to this. I wish to hear the Minister address this in replying to the debate on Second Stage.
The Minister has concerns about putting victims' protection into prosecutorial law. I recognise that individuals involved in trafficking have the right to be protected. It is important that this is addressed in legislation, whether in this Bill or another. If this is to be addressed in another item of legislation we would like to know the timeframe for it. It should be very speedy if not dealt with in this Bill.
I have done research on unaccompanied and separated children coming into Ireland. I interviewed many of these children in the hostels in which they were staying. I was horrified at the vulnerability of these young people. I note with distress that many young people who entered Ireland unaccompanied were placed in hostels and have disappeared. Serious questions must be raised about the level of care we give these people and the follow-up undertaken. The Garda Síochána is involved in trying to track these people but I have no doubt some of them have been trafficked into prostitution. We must pay far more attention to this area. The children face risks from predators. We must pay far more attention to how they are looked after when they arrive in the country. They are under threat of being lured into abusive relationships or the sex industry.
Legislation alone will not improve the conditions of these minors who are the victims of trafficking. It is important that the providers of social services are aware of the varied needs of these young people and set up proper services. The study with Ms Pauline Conroy of Ralaheen Limited, who has done much work in this area, showed that the young children were not receiving the level of care and services needed. A more co-ordinated approach is needed between the HSE, various service providers and the Garda Síochána. There is no point in recognising the rights of these victims unless we provide for the rights on a practical level.
The objective of this Bill is to put traffickers out of business and, by doing so, to protect the human rights of the victims of trafficking. It is important the Bill is enacted in order that we can ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. This will enable a Europe-wide battle against the trafficking of humans. I hope the Government did not weaken its hand when it opted out of the justice elements of European co-operation. I ask the Minister to address this when he returns to the House. Europe-wide action is needed to deal with this topic.
An important aspect of the battle against trafficking is similar to the battle against drugs, namely, demand. Fine Gael tabled an amendment to extend criminal liability to those who used trafficked prostitutes. It was apparently accepted by the Minister. One consequence of limiting demand may be to drive the industry underground. If we are serious about reducing the demand for trafficked persons we must examine issues such as the various arenas of adult entertainment and lap dancing clubs. The community's wishes must be taken into account. Where these arenas flourish, one creates a market for sex trafficking. We have seen what has happened in Holland, a country with liberal policies in respect of these practices. That country is recognised as an international hub for paedophilia and sex trafficking.
Prostitution is not a criminal offence in Ireland but there is a battery of laws regulating the advertising and management of prostitution and attempting to prevent public nuisance from the activities of prostitutes. These laws do not address the demand for sexual services and the criminalisation of sexual acts and thus the women engaged in prostitution are criminialised while the men who use the services are not.
By criminialising those who use trafficked prostitutes, this Bill goes some way to redressing the balance in our prostitution laws. These must be examined to combat the veritable sex industry that is emerging. We need joined-up thinking. We must examine human trafficking, drugs and prostitution, all of which are run by criminals. One activity provides the cash to fuel another. A lax attitude to any of these activities can cause a problem in other areas. While the Bill aims to tackle those involved in human trafficking, the Government must realise that as long as drug lords and brothel owners are allowed to operate in Ireland and reap massive profits, there always will be a demand for trafficked persons, whether for the importation of drugs or for the sex industry. Much work must be done and the legislation must examine the definitions that are required for the Bill, such as that of pornography.
The Minister commented that the issue of victims' rights will be addressed in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill but I urge him not to rely solely on that Bill to protect the victims of trafficking, as it only deals with non-EEA nationals. It should be recognised that many victims have been trafficked from within the EU and they and their families also face many problems. Many people have been trafficked into this country under false pretences from eastern Europe.
We must examine also the deceit involved at the outset of a trafficking itinerary, often by a person of the same background, village or milieu. The trafficker gains the trust of the victim only to deceive him or her or their parents in the long term. This deceit is intrinsic to the Palermo Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and I urge that the Bill be amended to include the words "deceitfully induces" as an offence. In fact, there was a horrific description in one of last Sunday's newspapers of the situation of a young woman who had been trafficked in this way. She was brought to this country through deceit and kept in captivity. She escaped and was lucky enough to be helped by a woman who brought her to a police station. We must bear in mind that some of the victims of trafficking are from within the European Union and look after them as well.
Traffickers intentionally confuse and disorientate victims so they will be less likely to escape from their situation. Irish social services, health services and gardaí must be trained to watch for the symptoms of abuse and be aware of those who are at risk. This goes beyond what is in the legislation but solving this problem cannot be done through legislation alone. Recognising that there is a problem is the first step towards creating a solution. This legislation will be effective in prosecuting those involved in trafficking.
One matter should be mentioned before I conclude. In the matter of the sale of children, it is important that the Bill recognises the role of intermediaries in cases of inter-country adoption, particularly in light of the recent judgments of Justice McMenamin in regard to the case of Tristan Dowse. The Bill should be amended to include the charging of transaction costs which are beyond what is reasonable to incur to comply with adoption administrative provisions in the State. Enacting and implementing this legislation effectively will not only reduce the potential for trafficking minors but will also prevent citizens of Ireland from being taken advantage of in the course of trying to adopt foreign children. This is an area that has not been greatly discussed in this country but we should examine it. Perhaps the Minister will comment on the inter-country adoption issue where in fact it does amount to the sale of children. It is a difficult and tricky area but it is one we must examine.
I commend the thrust of the Bill and I hope the Minister will consider the additions I have recommended. I urge him to introduce legislation urgently to ensure the rights of all victims of trafficking are recognised and protected under Irish law. This Bill must be seen as just one facet of the strategy against human trafficking. It is important that we take a multifaceted approach to this problem which must include the welfare and rights of victims as well as the education of present and future victims.