I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I want to preface my remarks on the report we are debating with some more general comments on integration matters as this is the first occasion I have addressed either House since my appointment as Minister with responsibility for integration. The most striking aspect of inward migration to Ireland has been the speed with which it has taken place, largely since 1 May 2004, following the expansion of the European Union. There are about 550,000 non-Irish nationals living in Ireland.
Another striking feature is the fact that the census for 2006 recorded that 29% of immigrants, approximately 140,000 people, came essentially from the countries of eastern and central Europe, most of them in the previous two years. Since the census was taken more people have arrived, as evidenced by the number of personal public service, PPS, numbers issued by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. It is important to stress that these people are using rights under the EU treaties in the same way Irish people have used the same rights to seek employment in other EU countries. In the context of this debate it is important to stress that there is no suggestion that those people who have come here are in any way more involved in criminality than anybody else.
One way of seeking to prevent people in this category from becoming involved in anti-social behaviour is to encourage them to become involved with their local communities. My office has made funding available to major sporting bodies — the GAA, the FAI and Basketball Ireland — to assist them in promoting increased participation by non-nationals in their games. My office also made funding available to local authorities to assist them in their efforts. An example of the way in which local authorities used this funding was to promote voter registration among migrants to further improve the participation of migrants in the forthcoming local and European elections.
My office, together with the Iris O'Brien Foundation, is providing financial support for the extension of the Fáilte Isteach project, started in Summerhill, County Meath by Mary Nally of Third Age. The project has now been extended to approximately ten locations. I am happy to support this project, bringing together as it does older people and migrants, enabling both to learn from each other about different cultures, languages and traditions.
Jointly with the Equality Authority, my office is funding work to promote integration in the workplace. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, the Construction Industry Federation and Chambers Ireland are also involved in these projects.
On the wider issues, there is in place an inter-cultural health strategy and work is proceeding on the development of an educational strategy. Issues concerning housing, interpretation and translation will have to be addressed also.
I make these few remarks to illustrate that changes are required at all levels to meet the challenges of integration. It is important we avoid repeating the mistakes made by others in this area. In the current economic climate, there may be those tempted to scapegoat migrant workers as in some way contributing to our decline in employment. That would be wrong. The people who have come here to work and live have made and continue to make a valuable contribution. They pay their taxes here, many have established families here and they are enduring the same economic challenges as everyone else. I am aware that there was a debate in this House in December 2007 which helped to inform the thinking underpinning the policy approach set out in Migration Nation, the statement on integration strategy and diversity management launched by my predecessor last July, and I would welcome a discussion on wider matters to do with integration in the future.
Turning to the report, I should inform the House what the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development is so that Members will have a better appreciation of the document. The association is a non-governmental organisation whose membership is drawn from the broad criminal justice system, that is, Government policy makers, members of the Garda Síochána, lawyers, members of the Judiciary, members of the prison and probation services and also includes academics and a variety of individuals from the voluntary and community sector. The activities of the association are designed to increase mutual understanding and provide insights into the challenges with which all are confronted. In opening unofficial channels of communication, it seeks to improve co-operation between the different parts of the criminal justice system. The association is funded by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
A practice of the association is to hold an annual conference on a particular theme and to publish, after the conference, the presentations made at the conference. That practice has been followed on this occasion. It is important to explain the role and function of the association in some detail so that members can appreciate that there are not, for example, recommendations for action or concrete proposals in the document before us. On the various presentations made to the conference, it would not be appropriate or fair for me to go through them individually. All of the presentations were intended to put forward certain views — some put forward by officials, others by those with an interest in the subject being discussed. They were intended to inform debate in the workshops — five in all — which followed the presentations.
I am happy, however, to give the House an outline of the current position in various areas. One of the areas of concern has been that of road safety. Since March 2006, the Road Safety Authority has been running an ongoing foreign language road safety campaign. The campaign focuses on legal and road safety advice when driving in Ireland. Areas covered are licence, tax and insurance, the national car test, speed limits, penalties for breach of speed limits, seat belt regulations and drink driving laws. A leaflet and poster entitled Road Safety and the Law have been produced and have been translated into eight foreign languages — Russian, Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Chinese. The leaflets and posters are distributed through the minority ethnic press, ethnic shops, advice centres, ports and airports as well as the Garda Síochána and local authorities. The new Rules of the Road have so far been produced in Russian, Polish and Mandarin Chinese. In addition, Garda road safety awareness programmes are conducted in schools, third level colleges, workplaces and other facilities, with the aim of educating road users, including persons from minority ethnic backgrounds, of the obligations of all road users.
Staff of the Garda Racial and Intercultural Office, established in 2000, have responsibility for co-ordinating, monitoring and advising on all aspects of policing in the area of ethnic and cultural diversity. The remit of the office was recently expanded to cover other areas of diversity and it has begun a consultation process with other diverse communities such as the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community and various organisations representing people with disabilities. Staff of the office liaise with Government agencies, NGOs, voluntary groups, victim support agencies and members of the Garda Síochána, providing advice and guidance on diversity. There are currently more than 600 trained ethnic liaison officers nationally. These gardaí liaise with ethnic minority communities and the Traveller community and inform and assure them of Garda services and protection.
The Garda Pulse system has been adapted to include a modus operandi for recording incidents of racism. All such incidents are captured on the system and are monitored by the Racial and Intercultural Office on a weekly basis. In addition, there are regular meetings with members of ethnic minority communities as part of the Garda Síochána’s commitment under the national action plan against racism. The chief superintendent, community relations, also holds an annual meeting with representatives of ethnic minorities and the Traveller community.
The EU fundamental rights agency recently published the results of an EU wide minorities and discrimination survey. Some of the results showed Ireland in a positive light. Others raise issues of concern. My office is examining the results of this survey to see what can be learned. I would, however, enter a caution when reading the report, that is about the sampling methods used which were different in Ireland from most other countries as an attempt to use the random sampling methods used elsewhere had to be abandoned in Ireland, apparently because that method did not produce sufficient respondents. More seriously, the fieldwork was only carried out in Dublin. My office has had some contact with the EU fundamental rights agency and will consult it again about this and other aspects of the methodology used.
Turning to prisons, all foreign nationals are facilitated in contacting consular representatives and are entitled to receive a visit from their consul at any reasonable time. Cloverhill Remand Prison, which holds the highest proportion of foreign nationals in our system, translates prisoner induction/information leaflets into a number of languages — Arabic, Russian, Romanian, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French and Latvian. Other institutions with a high proportion of foreign national prisoners follow a similar practice. Any special dietary requirements of prisoners are catered for in all institutions. A module on intercultural awareness and racism is now part of prison officer training.
The Courts Service has produced a wide range of leaflets in various languages, available both in hard copy and on its website. The leaflets are available in Irish, English, French, Spanish, Polish, Russian and Mandarin Chinese. These leaflets cover a range of procedures including bail, family law and the small claims procedure.
Turning to the focus of one of the contributions to the conference, the Immigration, Protection and Residence Bill, as Members will be aware, this Bill is awaiting Report Stage in the Dáil, following a lengthy and extensive Committee Stage debate. A number of commitments were made by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to examine certain matters and a number of these are still under examination. In the case of one area of concern, an amendment has been published on the smuggling of persons. An amendment will be brought forward at Dáil Report Stage on the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 to address the smuggling of migrants. This amendment has been drafted and has been circulated to Deputies so that they may examine it in advance of the Report Stage debate.
The amendment proposes a new Part 9 to the Bill. The purpose of this amendment is to provide for the implementation of three international legal instruments in the area of people smuggling. These instruments are EU Council Directive 2002/90/EC defining the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence; EU framework decision 2002/946/JHA on the strengthening of the penal framework to prevent the facilitation of unauthorised entry, transit and residence; and the protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. These three instruments seek to provide an effective international response to the growing problem of people smuggling.
People smuggling involves aiding persons to enter a state illegally through clandestine entry or by fraudulent means at frontier posts, by providing false documents etc. The illegal migrants have consented to, and in most cases requested, this assistance. People smuggling should not be confused with human trafficking. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 creates the offence of trafficking persons for the purposes of sexual or labour exploitation or organ removal. Victims of trafficking can enter a state by legitimate or legal means. Indeed, the offences under the Act need not involve foreign nationals. The key issue is that they have been trafficked for exploitation by another party and, in the case of adult victims, there has been some coercion or deception involved.
Although seemingly less pernicious than trafficking, people smuggling frequently involves the imposition of extortionate fees by smugglers as well as exposing the illegal migrants to grave danger in clandestinely entering states. Ireland has experienced the tragic consequences of people smuggling in the Wexford tragedy of December 2001, where eight people suffocated in a container while attempting clandestine entry into the United Kingdom.
Migrant smuggling is addressed in the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000. However, the Garda Síochána had expressed repeated concerns at the difficultly in obtaining a successful prosecution for trafficking or smuggling because of the "for gain" requirement, that is, the necessity of proving material gain on the part of the smuggler, in section (2)(2)(a) of the Act of 2000. The experience of the Garda National Immigration Bureau is that, in practice, it has been extremely difficult to prove that those engaged in the smuggling of migrants have done so for gain. In most cases of migrant smuggling a payment will have been made outside the State and no evidence of the payment will be available to the investigators.
The difficultly of securing convictions against traffickers and smugglers was referred to repeatedly during debate on the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. The present amendment proposes the removal of this "for gain" requirement, which will greatly enhance the ability of the Garda to pursue successful prosecutions against criminals involved in people smuggling. It will also have an application in securing convictions against people traffickers in cases where adult victims of trafficking do not co-operate with the authorities.
It should be noted that the "for gain" provision was added during the passage of the Bill through the Oireachtas. However, the Act has been in operation for eight years and has been largely ineffective due, in no small part, to this "for gain" provision. The experience since then is that people smuggling is largely the preserve of organised criminal gangs whose sole motivation is profit.
The proposed amendment provides for penalties for persons convicted of people smuggling of, first, on summary conviction, a maximum fine of €5000 or a maximum prison term of 12 months or both, and, second, on conviction on indictment, to an unlimited fine or a maximum prison sentence ten years or both.
The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act which came into effect on 7 June 2008 creates an offence of recruiting, transporting, transferring to another person, harbouring or causing the entry into, travel within or departure from the State of a person for the specific purpose of the trafficked person's sexual or labour exploitation or removal of his or her organs. It provides for penalties up to life imprisonment for persons who traffic other persons for the purposes of labour or sexual exploitation or for the removal of the person's organs. Enactment of this legislation brings Ireland into compliance with the criminal law-law enforcement elements of the EU framework decision on combating trafficking in human beings, the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings and the UN protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
As well as the legislation on the criminalisation and reflection periods, there are other measures to combat human trafficking being implemented on an administrative basis. An interdepartmental high level group compromising of representatives from key Departments has been established to recommend the most appropriate and effective responses to trafficking in human beings to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. An anti-human trafficking unit was established in February 2008 within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to ensure the State's response to human trafficking is co-ordinated, comprehensive and holistic.
A key element of this strategy will be the development of a national action plan to prevent and tackle trafficking in human beings. The national action plan will have a strong focus on preventing trafficking from becoming a major issue in Ireland. Four main headings comprising child trafficking, prevention and awareness-raising, prosecution of traffickers, and protection of victims are being used in its development.
A common thread in the criminal justice system is the need for interpretation services, with a similar demand across the wider public service. It is a matter with which my office will be dealing. The conference held by the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development was useful. I hope my statement will assist Members in their contributions which I look forward to hearing.