Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development Report: Statements.

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.

I welcome the Minister of State's comprehensive statement on the issues of immigration, human trafficking etc. We are, however, discussing a report from a seminar held by the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development in October 2008. It would be more useful if the House discussed legislation. Legislation is what the House is about and its responsibility. If our debates were more focused on specific elements of legislation, then the House would be more relevant, making a contribution to legislative effectiveness.

The Minister of State referred to amending the "for gain" clause in the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007 to ensure success in prosecuting human traffickers. This was already highlighted by the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000. It is unfortunate it has taken so long to correct what was an obvious anomaly which caused problems.

All political parties take seriously the integration and involvement of the immigrant community in Irish life. Several policy initiatives introduced in this area have been useful. For example, the translation of road safety manuals and signage is important to the migrant community. The human trafficking legislation is important in that it transposes our international and EU obligations. The unit in the Department will provide a necessary focus in following through these obligations. Aid to sporting bodies to ensure immigrant communities' participation in sports club is also welcome.

The work of the Association for Criminal Justice Research and Development is important because it reflects the increasing diversity of our population. At the October 2008 seminar, eight substantial papers were given by experts in this area. It was motivated by the designation of 2008 as the year of intercultural dialogue.

The paper by Pat Folan, director general of the Irish Nationalisation and Immigration Service, on crime security and the immigration system was a comprehensive exposé of immigration procedures, the difficulties thrown up by them and how these are dealt with. The Garda Ombudsman, Carmel Foley, dealt with minorities and the police complaints process, examining whether discrimination exists in this area. Phillip Watt, director of the national consultative committee on racism and interculturalism, gave a paper on crime and ethnic diversity. The observations of Hilkka Becker, senior solicitor for the Immigrant Council of Ireland, were extremely incisive.

The conference was opened by the then Minister of State with responsibility for integration policy, Deputy Conor Lenihan, who outlined the Government's integration and diversity policy proposals, which were set out in Migration Nation. While he set out several well-meaning and lofty policy aspirations, much of them have come unstuck. At the conference, he stated that his office was in the process of setting up specific structures to achieve its core co-ordination and promotion aims. These were to include a ministerial council, a task force and a commission for integration. By December 2008, the task force and the commission for integration were abandoned. No ministerial council has yet been established, unless the Minister of State can inform me otherwise. While some progress has been made, some steps back have also been taken. The significant reduction in the budgetary allocation to the integration office will further hinder the Minister of State in pursuing these objectives.

There are many positive signals in the area of immigration, social inclusion and integration. While an opinion poll from September last suggested people wanted more control in immigration, it nevertheless showed that 54% of people believed it had been good for Ireland. Pat Folan referred to this in his paper. The Garda Ombudsman, Carmel Foley, highlighted the statistic that just fewer than 2% of all complaints made to her commission entailed an allegation of discrimination. Some of the complaints cited by the immigrant community suggest they were based more on misunderstandings than any obvious act of discrimination. To suggest there is an over-representation of the immigrant community in our prisons does not stack up when one examines the statistics in detail . Philip Watt pointed out that, excluding the UK, the percentage of non-Irish nationals in the prison population is 6.5%, well below the non-Irish percentage of the overall population of 10%. Only one third of all non-Irish nationals committed to prison are for immigration type offences.

There is evidence that with the economic downturn, inward migration into Ireland has reduced significantly. At the same time, however, the exodus of migrant workers and their families has been limited. Accordingly, the fundamental issue of the integration of migrants remains and must be addressed.

The Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 will, as pointed out by Hilkka Becker, senior solicitor for the Immigrant Council of Ireland, criminalise irregular migrants which will equate them with smugglers, traffickers and those employers who engage people smuggled for exploitation. This is one of the fundamental issues which arises in any discussion on immigration and on that immigration Bill. We will be returning to that issue in the House and I will reserve my position for that debate.

The latest report of the Immigrant Council of Ireland on globalisation, sex trafficking and prostitution, which revealed that 102 victims of human trafficking were identified in 21 months, shows that this is an issue we need to continue to address. The new legislation introduced last year should help but further change is required in the immigration Bill and will have to be considered.

The paper by Pat Folan suggests we are playing catch-up in terms of legislation, staffing and organisational structures given the sudden wave of immigration over the past ten years. To be fair, much work has been done, much budgetary expenditure has been incurred and significant progress has been made in dealing with immigration, tackling the issue of illegal immigration and dealing with those elements such as human trafficking which are the most unsavoury elements of the whole system.

I make one point about the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, namely, it was only when it was pointed out recently by Fine Gael that its website was not reflective of the most up-to-date position in regard to procedures for immigration that changes were made. It was supposed to be a one-stop shop in terms of information when it was established in May 2007 but this was only recently corrected.

There is also the issue of the Metock case, which creates serious issues for the type of system which it is intended would be applied in Ireland. The Government allowed the loophole to remain in our current marriage laws which facilitates sham marriages for the purpose of gaining residency status in this country. Again, Fine Gael drafted an amendment via the Social Welfare Bill 2008 to deal with this loophole in a proportionate manner. It is unfortunate this was not acted upon.

There are other aspects of the association's report concerning minorities in the justice system, particularly in regard to the Travelling community and representation in the juvenile justice system. I do not find from the papers that there is any evidence of real discrimination in our system in terms of access to justice or with regard to the prison population, which is a very positive element in all of this. We seem to be able to accommodate the immigrant community in a manner which respects fundamental rights, in particular the right to access to justice.

In conclusion, the report of the association of its seminar last October provides very interesting background material on this whole subject, which remains important for policy makers and legislators such as ourselves. The economic recession has stemmed the flow of immigration — there is no question about that — but we now have an immigrant community which represents upwards of 10% of our population. We still have a task to ensure the integration of those people into Irish society. We need to fine-tune our legislation and continue to provide the support structures to ensure this takes place.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Curran. I wish him every success in his new brief and congratulate him on his continued role in office. I have no doubt he has a very important role to play. I am sure he will bring a breath of fresh air to this important brief.

To reflect on where we have come from in the past ten or 12 years, I remember being the spokesman on justice in the Seanad from 1997 to 2002, when the whole area of immigration, including the issue of illegal immigration and asylum seeking, was in its infancy in Ireland. There was a trickle coming in at that stage and the Government and the then Minister, the current Ceann Comhairle, Deputy John O'Donoghue, had to deal with a developing situation where the number of people coming into the country per month had gone from perhaps 50 or 60 to approximately 1,200 or 1,300 at one stage.

At that time, in 1996 to 1997, we had little or no infrastructure to deal with the situation that was evolving. I recall queues and chaos in the late 1990s because no system was in place. I give credit to the Government for the substantial funding, structures, appeal mechanisms and so on that were put in place to deal with the evolving situation. I have no doubt, given the contribution of the Minister of State in the House today and the contributions to the seminar, that we have improved by leaps and bounds in that ten to 12 year period. While I am not suggesting we are in a utopian situation and that everything is perfect, significant structures are now in place to deal with all the issues that confronted the then Minister from 1997 to 2002.

Through representing a remote part of Ireland, I have no doubt the whole issue of immigration has added a great flavour and given a boost to the culture of Ireland in many diverse ways. It has been a good experience and, by and large, it has been good for the country, although there will always be exceptions. We were seen not just for decades but for centuries as a people who emigrated to America, Australia and all over Europe. Recently, however, probably because of our economic boom, we were suddenly confronted with inward migration. While it was perhaps a hot potato to deal with at the beginning, we have come to deal with it in many ways.

The area where I live is very cosmopolitan. Growing up, for years we had many German people retiring to west Cork as well as many English and Dutch people. All of a sudden, in any of the towns and villages, there is now a mixture of Polish and Latvian people, with perhaps some Chinese and so on, which adds a great flavour. When we talk about the situation of immigration having brought all sorts of problems and having increased crime, my personal experience is that, by and large, this has not been the case. There are criminals in all societies and, unfortunately, that is also reflected in the immigrant communities.

I would like to quote from the paper by Pat Folan, director general of the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service. I read with some interest his paper, in which he made some important points. It is important to note the constitutional position as set out particularly by Ms Justice Denham in a very important running in the Bode case. Pat Folan stated:

Therefore migration is entirely dependent on the approach of the receiving State.

Indeed, one of the most fundamental duties, in fact one of the defining features, of any nation state is the responsibility to safeguard the security and integrity of its borders. This duty has been confirmed by the Irish courts on a number of occasions, most recently last December [that would have been December 2001] in the judgement of Ms Justice Denham in her ruling in the Bode case. In her words,

In every State, of whatever model, the State has the power to control the entry, the residency and the exit, of foreign nationals. This power is an aspect of the executive power to protect the integrity of the State. [This is quite true of Ireland and other countries.]

It is this power that the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and the Garda National Immigration Bureau exercise on behalf of the Minister. Put at its simplest, the State can and must regulate who can and can't enter the State. Therefore permission to enter or reside in Ireland, to again quote Justice Denham, is "a determination that the common good is served by giving benefits of residency to a category of foreign nationals — as a gift, in effect".

That is a clear statement of the legal framework, within which the Government must work. While the Minister of State might not have an immediate answer, perhaps he might come back to me if not in this House then in correspondence. Since the baseline of 1997, what has been the overall cost to the State of setting up the various structures to deal with immigration and so on? What has it cost over the past decade? What are the current costs and so on? I accept where we are. We are at this stage and we have gained much from the whole area of immigration.

The Minister of State and Senator Regan both referred to road safety and translation of papers. This is a very good thing. We often hear of unfortunate road deaths involving people from eastern Europe or other nations who normally drive on the other side of the road to the one to which we are accustomed. Is there a greater proportion of non-Irish nationals killed on our roads compared with Irish drivers? Is that a worrying trend or is it just that it is highlighted where we have an atrocious case of someone driving down the wrong lane on a motorway when four or five people are killed? Perhaps the Minister of State might reflect on that matter and come back to me.

I refer to the 2006 census figures, which showed there were then 408,000 migrants, representing 188 nationalities in Ireland. Eight of those nationalities have communities in excess of 10,000 people resident in this country. I presume this includes the Polish and possibly the Chinese and others. Will the Minister of State confirm whether this trend is increasing or, owing to the economic downturn in the past 18 months or two years, decreasing? While we often think of immigrants as people from eastern Europe or parts of Africa, it is interesting that in 2006 the number of Americans in the country had doubled — I presume since the previous census. Also a statistic of some academic interest only is that there were 112,000 UK nationals who are not counted in the overall figures. Taking into account all the statistics we have and allowing for the fact there may be a small percentage of unaccounted for people in our system from various countries who have either come in illegally or crossed the Border from Northern Ireland, would it be fair to say we are much closer to an overall figure of 15% rather than 10%, which is the presumed position?

I accept the Minister of State is new to the Department. Obviously this would pertain more to large urban areas like Dublin or Cork. Is the Department concerned about ghettoisation of communities of migrants? I am not making that point to engage with the Minister of State in a difficult situation. I have read a lot and have been to Germany at least three or four times. There was a major problem at one stage — I felt the German authorities did not deal with it that well — of Turkish immigrants who formed ghettoes and did not in any way integrate into German society. That was a worrying trend. It was not a few hundred here and there. I understand at one stage it was well in excess of 2 million or 3 million people. I would not like to see any ethnic minority coming to this country forming ghettoes, streets or enclaves that might cause difficulties down the road for society.

My experience from the parts of west County Cork and Kerry, with which I am more familiar, is that people integrate quite freely. Younger people go to discos and pubs and shop freely. Five or six years ago I was in Youghal in east County Cork for a weekend. I happened to go to Mass on a Sunday morning not realising that it was a special Polish Mass for Polish immigrants. I was the odd one out in the church because it was all in Polish. It is good to see that in our society and churches, whether Catholic, Church of Ireland or whatever denomination, people practise their religion and can do so freely in this country. It is an indication of our open society.

I refer to the paper by Carmel Foley. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission has taken on a new role in investigating the area of migration etc. In recent years as the Minister of State said in his contribution, there are approximately 600 — I presume — gardaí from various backgrounds involved in dealing with complaints etc. There was one particularly difficult case with which the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission had to deal. It involved the death of a person in, I believe, Tralee, County Kerry, while in custody. I am not sure how that ended up and it may be still sub judice. If that is the case, I do not expect the Minister of State to comment on it.

It is interesting that the Garda Síochána Act 2005, in setting up this new role, has given strong and extensive powers to the body for dealing with complaints against gardaí, particularly complaints concerning minorities and policing. For example, it has given powers to arrest and to detain for questioning, power to enter and search places and to take photographs, finger prints and bodily samples. It is interesting that in one instance the new body entered a Garda station under the remit of the chief superintendent of the area and carried out an investigation.

An outreach programme was set up to deal with the issues relating to gardaí, minorities and immigration. Will the Minister of State give us an update on how this outreach programme is working? Does it operate on a pilot basis or has it been developed extensively throughout the country and in both rural and urban areas?

It is important too that the Minister of State refers to the recent Bill on human trafficking. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act came into effect in June 2008. One of the downsides of immigration was trafficking, something that was totally alien to this country 20 years ago. This is a sinister crime and we have been obliged to introduce legislation to deal with it. We had an unfortunate situation in Wexford where, as a result of an attempt to traffic in humans, several lives were lost. There was a similar poignant case in the south of England where a large number of people died in a container. Human trafficking must be stamped out totally and I am glad the new legislation is in place.

We must be ever vigilant against trafficking. I am particularly concerned at the trafficking of women for prostitution or other abuse. This is appalling. Children are also being trafficked. Some gangs have been exposed in Italy and elsewhere that were involved in paedophilia. I urge the Minister of State to be extremely vigilant in this regard. Human trafficking is a deplorable act, but we must be even more vigilant where innocent women and defenceless children are involved. I wish the Minister of State luck in his brief and hope he will be able to respond to some of the issues I have raised. I will be more than glad to listen to his response.

I thank Senator Regan for his comments and questions. There is nothing like Senator O'Donovan coming in on my first day to give me a hard time.

Before I refer specifically to some of the comments made, I would like to say that on previous occasions when I was involved in debate in this House on legislation, the Charities Bill in particular, the debate that occurred influenced and affected the outcome of the legislation. I hope that the same will happen when we talk about the issue of integration. This is not something on which any one person has all the answers. It is important that we listen attentively to the sort of debate we have had here today and elsewhere because other countries are years ahead of us. We need to learn from other experiences of what works.

Senator Regan mentioned that the previous Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, intended to establish a council, commission or task force but that we had rowed back from that. While that was his intention, we have had two budgets since then and we face a different economic outlook. Now, various bodies such as those are being brought back within Departments. That does not mean it is not important to consider such a council and I will look at whether some such committee or council should be established to allow the passing to me of information from those people who are directly involved or whoever is in this position. However, the type of plan envisaged by the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, is not possible in the current economic climate.

I think Senator O'Donovan, who gave me such a grilling, forgot he is on the same side of the House as I am. I do not have the answers to all the questions he asked me, but I will refer to one or two. Since the census in 2006, the number of foreign nationals here continued to increase. In the fourth quarter of 2008, the CSO estimated there were 476,000 such persons aged 15 and over here. Out of a total population in that age profile of 3.5 million, this approximates to one in seven people being foreign nationals. The number of non-nationals was lower then than in the earlier quarters of 2008 as the recession had begun to take effect. I do not have the figures to hand because the Senator did not advise me he wanted that information, but the drop is substantial in the registration for PPS numbers. The trend is substantially downward.

I wish to clarify one point made by the Senator. He referred to the 600 trained ethnic liaison officers within the Garda Síochána. They are not there just to deal with complaints. Their role is more than that, it is to work with communities, liaise with them and assure them of services and protection. They are not part of a complaints board per se. The Senator also asked me an awkward and complicated question about costs, going back to 1997. I will see what information is available on that. I thank the Senators for their contributions this afternoon.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ag 10.30 maidin amárach.