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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 2013

Vol. 222 No. 12

Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013: Second Stage

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am pleased to present, on behalf of the Minister for Justice and Equality who cannot be here today, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013. Trafficking in human beings should not be tolerated and everything possible should be done to ensure the protection of those vulnerable to human trafficking and to bring to justice those who benefit from it. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 already criminalises human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation - including subjecting a person to forced labour - and exploitation for the removal of human organs. The Bill before the House expands the definition of human trafficking to ensure that people are not exploited for the purposes of forced begging and criminal activities. It also defines what is constituted by forced labour.

This is a short but urgent Bill, the main purpose of which is to transpose, in full, the criminal law provisions of a particular EU directive. The directive in question, which relates to preventing and combating human trafficking and protecting its victims, was adopted in April 2011 and replaced an earlier framework decision of 2002. Most of the criminal law provisions in the directive have already been transposed by the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which implemented the framework decision. For example, the directive establishes mandatory maximum penalties for human trafficking offences. The maximum penalty set down is five years or ten years if any of a number of specified aggravating circumstances is a factor. Ireland has a high penalty regime for human trafficking offences and, in terms of sanctions, far exceeds the requirements of the directive. In this jurisdiction, a person found guilty of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or exploitation for the removal of human organs is liable to life imprisonment.

Article 2.3 of the directive provides that, at a minimum, exploitation for the purposes of human trafficking shall include "the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, including begging, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or the exploitation of criminal activities, or the removal of organs". This expands the definition of exploitation in the 2002 framework decision to include two new forms of exploitation. The first of these is exploitation for forced begging and the second is exploitation for criminal activities. The Bill extends the scope of our human trafficking legislation to include both. All the other forms of exploitation specified in the directive are already criminalised by the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008.

Article 4.3 of the EU directive provides that member states shall take the necessary measures to ensure that the fact that a human trafficking offence was committed by a public official in the performance of his or her duties is regarded as an aggravating circumstance. The Bill implements this mandatory requirement. Our human trafficking legislation contains separate offences of trafficking a child for sexual exploitation, trafficking a child for exploitation other than sexual exploitation and trafficking an adult. In each case, the Bill provides that where the offence is committed by a public official during the performance of his or her duties, this circumstance shall be treated as an aggravating factor when the court is determining the sentence. Unless a life sentence is being handed down or there are exceptional circumstances justifying its not doing so, the court is required to impose a sentence that is greater than would have been imposed in the absence of this aggravating circumstance.

I should emphasise that the provisions in the Bill before the House do not arise from concerns with regard to the commission of human trafficking offences by public officials in this jurisdiction. They merely flow from a mandatory provision in the directive. Ireland has well established, structured and co-ordinated arrangements for the provision of assistance and support to victims and alleged victims of human trafficking, including those who are particularly vulnerable. Many of the measures taken in this jurisdiction to address human trafficking, such as the establishment of dedicated anti-human trafficking units in An Garda Síochána, the HSE and the Department, have been commended nationally and internationally. Our achievements in preventing and combating human trafficking are due, in large part, to the commitment and hard work of public servants working in a number of Departments and agencies.

The Minister is availing of the opportunity this Bill presents to define the term "forced labour", as used in the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. That Act criminalises human trafficking for labour exploitation, including subjecting a person to forced labour but does not define the term "forced labour". For the purposes of the Act, the term "trafficking" is broadly defined. For example, the commission of a trafficking offence does not require cross-border - or even internal movement - or illegal entry into the State and includes recruitment; taking a person into one's custody, care or charge; and providing the person with accommodation or employment.

In the context of a recent review of the potential of the 2008 Act to combat forced labour per se, the International Labour Organization, ILO, Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations was asked for its views on whether Ireland's human trafficking legislation is sufficiently wide in scope to encompass forced labour as defined in ILO's Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), concerning forced or compulsory labour. Subject to certain specified exceptions, the ILO convention defines forced labour as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily". The ILO committee is of the view that the scope of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 is broad enough to encompass the main constituent elements of forced labour as defined by the ILO's Forced Labour Convention of 1930.

The committee noted the broad definition of "trafficks" in the Act, which includes providing a person with accommodation or employment. It also noted the numerous means of exploitation, for example, coercion, threats, abduction, force, deception, fraud, abuse of authority and taking advantage of vulnerability, addressed by the legislation. It believes that these provisions combined can be applied in practice to cover situations where work is exacted without freely given or informed consent. However, in the interests of clarity the ILO committee has recommended that we define the term "forced labour" in line with ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29). The Minister is happy to implement this recommendation and appreciates the assistance of the ILO committee. The proposed definition closely follows the ILO definition and the Minister believes it will give legal clarity to the issue.

The term "forced labour" covers a diverse array of exploitative behaviours, ranging from infringement of labour regulations at one end of the spectrum to false imprisonment, human trafficking, etc., at the other. Consequently, it is likely that activities constituting forced labour could also be prosecuted under several other offences, for example, false imprisonment, blackmail, assault, a coercion offence under the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997, offences under employment law, health and safety legislation, immigration law, etc.

The Minister has noted that the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation intends to bring forward amendments to employment permits legislation. These amendments will ensure that an employer may not benefit from the illegality of a contract of employment where he or she is found culpable in not ensuring a valid employment permit was in place for the employee concerned. Those proposals will complement this Bill. We have a duty to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not exploited and that a comprehensive approach is taken to tackling the evil of human trafficking.

A small number of issues are still being considered for Committee Stage and, where necessary, the Minister proposes to deal with these by way of Committee Stage amendments to the Bill, either in this House or in the Dáil. In particular, Article 15.4 of the EU directive requires member states to take the necessary measures to ensure that in criminal investigations of human trafficking offences "all interviews with a child victim, or where appropriate, with a child witness, may be video recorded and that such video recorded interviews may be used as evidence in criminal court proceedings, in accordance with the rules under their national law".

For the purposes of the directive, a child is a person below the age of 18 years. Currently, our criminal evidence legislation makes provision for the use as evidence of video-recorded statements of a child victim under 14 years of age. Consequently, there may be gaps in our law in terms of the directive. For example, it may be necessary to make provision for the video-recording of statements of child victims aged between 14 and 18 years. This issue concerning the rights of child victims and witnesses in criminal investigations and proceedings needs careful consideration. The best interests of children and the rights of defendants to a fair trial in accordance with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights are important matters to be examined in this context.

Following consideration of how best to transpose requirements flowing from Article 15.4 of the EU directive, amendments to the Criminal Evidence Act 1992 will be brought forward. In addition, the Director of Public Prosecutions has been consulted to ascertain whether her office has any difficulties in bringing prosecutions under particular provisions of the Act or whether it foresees any problems in terms of the Bill. If any problems are identified and considered amenable to resolution by legislation then amendments will be brought forward.

The provisions of the Bill are set out in four sections. Section 1 substitutes the definitions of "exploitation" and "labour exploitation" in section 1 of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 to add forced begging and exploitation of criminal activities to the scope of exploitative conduct criminalised by the 2008 Act. Recital 11 of the directive states that the expression "exploitation of criminal activities" should be understood as the exploitation of a person to commit, inter alia, pick-pocketing, shop-lifting, drug-trafficking and other similar activities which are subject to penalties and imply financial gain. Accordingly, under the Bill, forcing a person to engage in criminal activities, which includes forcing a person to engage in criminal activities outside the State, is defined in these terms. That is to say the Bill refers to activity that constitutes an offence and is engaged in for financial gain or that by implication is engaged in for financial gain.

Section 1 also inserts two new definitions, namely, "beg" and "forced labour" into section 1 of the 2008 Act. The term "beg" is given the same meaning as in the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 2011. Begging of itself is not an offence. The 2011 Act created an offence of harassing, intimidating, assaulting or threatening a person or persons, or obstructing the passage of persons or vehicles, while begging in any place. It also established offences of directing or controlling begging and living off the proceeds of begging. For all these offences, the meaning of begging includes soliciting money or goods from a person or persons other than in accordance with a licence or permit, etc. Further, any licence should be granted by or under an enactment. The same definition can be utilised for the offence of trafficking a person for forced begging. The definition of forced labour is in line with the definition of that term in International Labour Organization Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29).

Section 2 provides that where the offence of trafficking a child for exploitation other than sexual exploitation or the offence of trafficking an adult is committed by a public official during the performance of his or her duties as a public official, that fact shall be treated as an aggravating factor for the purpose of determining sentence. Both offences were created by the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. Unless a life sentence is being imposed or there are exceptional circumstances justifying its not doing so, the court is required to impose a sentence that is greater than would have been imposed in the absence of this aggravating circumstance. "Public official" is defined as an officer or employee of a public body, the term "public body" to be construed in accordance with the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995.

Section 3 mirrors section 2 for the offence of trafficking a child for sexual exploitation. This offence predates the 2008 Act. It originated in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. Section 4 specifies the Short Title of the Bill and provides for its coming into operation one month after its enactment.

I look forward to hearing the contributions of Members during the debate and I hope the House will support the passage of the Bill. On behalf of the Minister, I recommend the Bill to the House.

The Minister of State is welcome and I welcome the Bill. It is difficult to believe in this day and age, in 2013, that thousands of people are trafficked across the European Union, but figures published by the European Commission show that between 2008 and 2010 almost 24,000 people were trafficked across EU states and the Bill is an important part of a co-ordinated European response to that. It is important that throughout the European Union there are no safe havens for people involved in such crimes and that there is real cross-border co-operation. This is a good example of that principle. We should opt-in to more of the work done in the justice and home affairs aspect of the EU. We have been slow in the past in doing so. Criminals will exploit any gap in any area they see as a soft option. It is important that throughout the 27 EU states we ensure we all work together and have the strongest possible cross-border co-operation on these issues.

The Minister of State pointed out that the legislation builds on the 2008 Act and serves to bring us up to standard in terms of the EU directive that must be transposed by the end of this month. This adds to the existing situation and makes improvements such as broadening the definition of trafficking and other matters that have been referred to by the Minister of State.

I have several concerns and several issues have been raised with me by the Immigrant Council of Ireland. I seek further clarification from the Minister of State on these matters. At present it is unclear in the legislation and more generally what the position is with regard to legal assistance for victims across the spectrum, from the first time they access services or when we realise that someone has possibly been trafficked through the process. I realise there are supports during criminal proceedings but the Immigrant Council of Ireland is concerned that there also be support after criminal proceedings.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland is concerned that there also be support after criminal proceedings. We are discussing vulnerable people and it is important that they be supported the entire way through. They should not just be seen as witnesses in criminal trials, but as individuals who have had horrific experiences and who need every possible support to get their lives back on track.

It is also important that we ensure that people dealing with these issues have the best possible accommodation and a supportive environment. The directive stresses appropriate and safe accommodation. I have concerns about the system of direct provision. Senators Ó Clochartaigh, van Turnhout and I attended a briefing and have been doing some work through a Seanad ad hoc group on direct provision. This horrific matter has been in the headlines this week with former Supreme Court judge, Mrs. Justice Catherine McGuinness, speaking out about it. The situation in which people find themselves, particularly children, is unacceptable in this day and age. When dealing with vulnerable people who have been trafficked into the country, it is important that they be in proper accommodation rather than somewhere they are exposed to further risks or do not receive the supports they need.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland also referred to the need to ensure that all victims of trafficking have access to legal representation. It is concerned that not everyone will qualify for free legal aid. Perhaps the Minister of State will clarify the matter. It is also concerned about the need to ensure proper protocols across Departments for dealing with people who have been trafficked. Currently, someone provides an account of his or her traumatic experience to the Garda, but must then recount it to other agencies, for example, the Refugee Applications Commissioner or the Refugee Appeals Tribunal. It is important that we minimise the number of personal accounts delivered.

I understand that we have not opted into related directives. This directive refers to two of them, those being, EU Directives 2004/81/EC and 2009/52/EC. These urge member states to adopt an integrated, holistic and human rights approach to the fight against trafficking. It is important that we not selectively opt into only some directives, but that we take the entire picture on board and ensure that we do everything possible to have an integrated approach.

While I welcome this important Bill, the majority of human trafficking in the EU is done for sexual exploitation. Some 80% of those who are trafficked in the EU are women and girls and 62% are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Work is being done and the Department is considering further laws on prostitution. I strongly believe that we must criminalise the purchasers of sex. I feel sorry for the women involved. Statistics show that they typically get involved in prostitution in their mid-teens and have had horrific experiences. There are significant levels of drug misuse. It is not the glamorised face that is put on the profession by people who are making millions of euro from the exploitation of women and girls. These factors must form part of the picture.

It is important that we introduce legislation like this Bill and co-operate at a European level to catch and prosecute those involved. Ireland's record of prosecutions is dreadful in this regard. We must have effective services to catch people and bring them through the courts. We can have whatever legal framework we like, but people will continue uninhibited if they do not believe they will be caught. Ireland has one of the worst prosecution rates.

Having services after the fact is all very well, but we need to deal with the reason for human trafficking, that being, the demand for sex. I urge the Minister of State to push ahead in this regard. On behalf of our parliamentary party, our justice spokesperson made a submission as part of the public consultation process to the effect that we supported a move towards the Swedish approach. It is the right way to go. We also want to ensure that concerns about driving women underground are addressed. We must work as smartly as we can. The Swedish approach seems to work best. In the past year, Swedish prosecutors have briefed Members and the Garda. I listened carefully to what they had to say. The public consultation process has been completed and the matter will be discussed by the committee, but sexual exploitation is the bigger picture. The process outlined in the Bill will only assist the minority of victims who escape, are spotted by services and are in a position to be helped into better lives. Given the fact that the main reason for human trafficking is sexual exploitation, it is only when we have proper procedures, laws, prosecution services and supports to crack down on prostitution that we will have assisted those who need help.

Before I call the next Senator, I acknowledge the presence in the Visitors Gallery of a former distinguished Member and Cathaoirleach of this House, Mr. Charlie McDonald. He is welcome.

I welcome the Minister of State and my former colleague, Mr. McDonald. He was one of the first Irish Members of the European Parliament. When Ireland entered Europe in 1973 and our first representatives were appointed rather than elected, people wondered what the impact of European politics would be. Mr. McDonald's presence is appropriate, given the fact that we are dealing with legislation that would not have been tabled had it not been for the politics of Europe and its drive to build a socially and economically fair and just Union. Much of the legislation in the justice portfolio stemmed from European directives and the vision of people at European level who saw a better, brighter and broader future ahead. This answers the cynics who often ask what Europe has done for Ireland. Simply put, this legislation would not be before the House were it not for the European Uniion.

I welcome the Bill and listened with interest to the Minister of State's comments. I thank the Opposition spokesperson for her constructive contribution. We are as one on the need for this legislation to be enacted and enforced. The broader issues of trafficking are a human tragedy and must be addressed. "Something must be done" is a pointless political phrase if no one does anything, but the State will have additional tools to deal with trafficking once this legislation is in place.

Senator Power has consistently given her opinion on the issue of prostitution and the possible criminalisation of purchasers of sex. The Minister of State is aware that the justice committee has been studying this topic in great detail and its members appear to have a united approach on the matter. I look forward to the Government's response to those deliberations.

In our so-called modern society where we talk so much about rights, it is difficult to accept that trafficking is a greater problem than it ever was. One must ask why. In trying to answer, we must reflect on the word "respect". Once society begins to lose its concepts of respect and responsibility, grave problems emerge. Once a view is taken that respect is not due to certain sectors of society and people of certain backgrounds, these difficulties and problems emerge.

Whether it is a refugee or someone who is brought to Ireland for forced labour or somebody who has been forced into prostitution, respect has obviously gone out the door on society's part and not on the part of the victims or even the practitioners. As a country, we have a great deal of soul searching to do to get back to a surer, safer and more responsible path.

Sadly, the trafficking problem frequently appears on our television screens when we view pictures of lorry loads of imprisoned people being shipped into Europe and sometimes Ireland. It is a barbaric practice and one wonders how, in a so-called civilised age, it can happen, yet it does. Whatever resources and laws are required must be put in place to tackle the problem more effectively.

The prostitution problem clearly will be the subject of a major national and political debate. The previous speaker referred to the experience in Sweden where the growing view is perhaps the best solution. There are counter arguments and studies but the current scenario is most unsatisfactory. Only yesterday, I heard Paddy O'Gorman on RTE radio doing one of his reports during which he interviewed prostitutes on the streets of Dublin. They told a sad tale of disadvantage, poverty, lack of education and lack of options. There is a large equation of problems, which we must tackle.

It is not enough only to condemn forced labour; we must ensure through the passage of legislation such as this that it does not happen. I look forward to the enactment of the Bill because it will help in that regard.

On the question of refugees, it was interesting to read comments during the past week about our responsibility or otherwise towards our refugees. There are approximately 4,500 refugees in Ireland. While accommodation is provided, they are prisoners and not even in their own homes. An adult receives an allowance of €19 per week while €6 or €7 is provided per child. These people, in most instances, would love to work. They have skills and abilities but they are not permitted to work. I appreciate we have an enormous unemployment problem but it is not such that we can say to 4,500 people that they have no place in society and they cannot work even if they wish to work and even if a job were available. That needs to be addressed. According to the cynics, these people are technically costing the State whereas, instead, they could be great net contributors to the State from a social, cultural and economic point of view. Somebody has decided - I am not sure whether it was in this House, this Government or the EU - that these people must live in these conditions, which are far from ideal. The inscription on the statue of Charles Stewart Parnell states, "Thus far shalt thou go and no further". We are saying to refugees, "Thus far shall you go but no further". We allow them to survive but we do not wish them to thrive. It is a sad problem, which needs urgent attention.

I will not go into detail about the legislation but I appreciate the Minister of State's view that it is urgent and it is required of us from a European perspective. It is good that we are willingly entering into this and it will make a difference. I thank her for bringing the legislation before us. We talk about a fair, equal and just society but such a society cannot have a place for forced labour and such dreadful stains and burdens on the soul of the state.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The Bill will transpose some important provisions of the EU anti-trafficking directive into domestic legislation, which is very much welcome. I thank the Minister of State for outlining the Bill's contents.

I welcome the inclusion of a definition of "forced labour" based on the International Labour Organization Convention No. 29 of 1930 concerning forced or compulsory labour. I called for a clear definition of "forced labour" last November in the context of the shocking exploitation and forced labour of Muhammad Younis when we debated in the House Senator Quinn's Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2012. The Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland, MRCI, has called for a definition of "forced labour" in domestic law for many years. I welcome members of the centre to the House. They are present in the Visitors Gallery and they are accompanied by a number of survivors of forced labour in Ireland. They are the human faces of the laws we debate and their presence instills in me a sense of my responsibility and our collective responsibility to ensure the law protecting victims of forced labour is as robust as possible. I seek an assurance that the definition of "forced labour", as intended by the ILO convention and as understood in international jurisprudence with respect to offering oneself voluntarily, means fully informed and free consent throughout the worker's service period. It is my understanding that in a number of forced labour cases dealt with by the MRCI, the victim could be said to have offered himself or herself voluntarily and the features defining forced labour came into play thereafter. That is why I stress the need for an assurance from the Minister of State about that understanding of the definition.

I also thank the Immigration Council of Ireland, ICI, which helped me to examine a number of the gaps in the legislation. A number of outstanding issues need to be addressed to give full effect to the EU directive. These do not necessarily need to be dealt with through this Bill or primary legislation but I reserve my right to table amendments on Committee Stage because I received a copy of the Bill only last week and I am still trying to work my way through it. Many of the issues I would like addressed can be dealt with through policy or other primary legislation but they are covered by the EU directive and I would like us to uphold it in full.

The directive specifically highlights the gender dimension of the crime and requires countries to adopt a gender specific perspective in provision of support and assistance to victims and in prevention work but this seems to have been ignored. We need to provide gender neutral accommodation and services in direct provision centres, for example.

My second concern also relates to direct provision and I have pursued this issued via Adjournment matters, as the Minister of State will be aware. I feel at times, including yesterday, that inappropriate road blocks are put in my way but I will not be deterred. In addition to the overall gender specific approach to service and assistance contained in article 1, the directive also covers appropriate and safe accommodation and assistance. The current policy to secure accommodation and material assistance through the system of direct provision is controversial. Senator Bradford has raised several issues in this regard and it is perceived as inappropriate by many. We need to address these issues. I have asked for a debate on directive provision in the House.

Third, it is unclear what is the policy on provision of support and assistance to victims following criminal proceedings. Specifying a commitment in that regard would be in line with the relevant provision of the directive. Fourth, can the issue of victims of trafficking with special needs be addressed through policy or additional primary legislation? The EU directive obliges states "To attend to victims with special needs where those needs derive from pregnancy, health issues, disability, mental disorder or a serious form of psychological, physical or sexual violence they have suffered".

In that regard, it is noted that the existing administrative arrangements only provide for the granting of a temporary resident permit on condition of co-operation with the authorities. Considerations of any of the listed special needs that I have outlined are absent; therefore, I would like to know how we will uphold that part of the EU directive.

The identification of victims of trafficking is currently extended to a limited category of victims and appears to be an opaque and unlimited process. Even though the authorised personnel are trained and familiar with international guidelines for the identification of victims, no structure has been agreed for this process, including the number of interviews, minimum criteria and time limits, to give effect to the directive's provisions for early identification. This is in addition to the problem that the vast number of victims remain ineligible for the identification procedure.

The EU directive obliges the State to ensure that victims have access to counselling without delay and, in accordance with the role of victims in the criminal justice system, to legal representation, including for the purpose of compensation. Victims in Ireland currently have access to legal counselling provided by the legal aid board by referral from the Garda National Immigration Bureau. However, access to legal representation has to be considered in full, in my opinion. For example, not all victims of trafficking would meet the eligibility criteria for legal aid in the State, including for the purposes of seeking compensation. It is worth exploring and eliminating any differences in eligibility that arise from the fact that the person is not formally identified as a victim of human trafficking or the victim is not habitually resident.

Article 19 of the EU directive provides for the establishment of a national rapporteur or an equivalent mechanism that will be in charge of statistical data, extraction of trends and evaluation of the adequacy of national measures against trafficking human beings. Currently, the anti-human trafficking unit collates statistics and presents trends in this crime. However, the element of independent evaluation cannot be provided by this unit because it is at the centre of decisions on measures and their implementation. Therefore, when a decision on such a rapporteur body is being taken, there should be close co-operation with civil society organisations to ensure we are compliant and fully in line with the directive.

Although they are not defined as workers under our current labour laws, but given the specific vulnerability of their class to exploitation, forced labour and human trafficking, I wish to flag my concern about the unregulated and scrutinising of the au pair industry. The vast majority of parents and au pairs have a really positive experience from this short-term cultural exchange with some childminding duties. I am not talking about that area specifically but given the crisis in affordable access to child care, we have seen increased instances of au pairs being taken on as child-minders. To all intents and purposes, they have been exploited as domestic workers. I have met some of those au pairs and it is clear that their employment aspects need to be regulated.

We also need to examine the child protection concerns and the vetting of au pairs. As there is no facility for parents to have an au pair vetted, unless they go through an agency, perhaps we need to ensure that this is done through agencies. In addition, no guidance is being given by the State to parents and au pairs about their expectations. For example, how does an au pair, who is new to this country, raise concerns about child protection and alert the authorities here? I have heard cases involving au pairs whose documentation has been taken from them and they are not given access to the public. While I know it is outside this Bill's remit because it is not a labour issue, the problem is that the au pair problem falls between so many gaps. I will raise the matter with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton.

Despite raising these issues, I fully support the Bill. However, I want the legislation to be fully in line with the EU anti-trafficking directive. I hope the Minister of State can assure me that the matters I have referred to will be addressed through policy or additional legislation.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. We appreciate her support and willingness to come here regularly. The Bill essentially extends existing anti-trafficking legislation. Trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation is currently outlawed under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. The Act incorporated EU anti-trafficking standards as set out in an EU framework decision. However, these minimum standards were replaced by a further directive in 2011 which requires EU states to criminalise trafficking for forced begging for the purpose of criminal activities. The Bill before us today deals with this requirement to amend Irish law accordingly. We are up to the wire on that one as April is the deadline. The Bill uses an International Labour Organizsation definition and places into Irish law a specific definition of forced labour. Forced labour is difficult to define and prove, however.

The Bill also provides that public officials, as defined in the legislation, face harsher penalties than private individuals convicted of the same offences, and rightly so. Although our existing law under the 2008 Act is reasonably robust, and aside from the legal requirement upon us to transpose the directive into Irish law, the US State Department, which monitors trafficking internationally, has made recommendations to the Irish Government on how our anti-trafficking measures can be improved. It made such a report in 2012 and recommended that Ireland consider drafting specific amendments to criminalise forced labour in order to strengthen the existing 2008 legislation.

I thank the Oireachtas Library and Research Service for the digest its staff prepared for us on this Bill. It not only gives an explanation of the Bill before us, but also provides a more rounded explanation on the background to the legislation and some interesting statistics on where Ireland, and Europe, currently stand in the battle to prevent the trafficking of human beings internationally.

One of the key points of the European Commission's report Trafficking in Human Beings noted that almost 24,000 people in the EU were identified as victims of trafficking over the 2008 to 2010 period. Of more concern is the fact that represented an increase of 18% over that three-year period. More importantly, the report noted that the level of trafficking convictions decreased by 13% in the same period.

It is worth repeating that 79% of trafficking victims are female, of whom 12% are girls. It is a commonly held view that a lot of individuals involved in trafficking are from outside the EU but in fact, as the report identified, the majority of victims are from within the EU - mainly from Romania, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary.

The report cites statistics concerning those identified as victims of trafficking per 100,000 inhabitants for each EU country. Ireland came in at 1.7%, which is just below the EU average of two victims per 100,000 inhabitants. It is not necessarily something for us to be proud of. First of all, it is difficult to estimate with any degree of accuracy the numbers of people who are trafficked within Ireland. As the Migrant Rights Centre has reported, forced labour is a growing problem in Ireland. The centre has dealt with over 180 cases of forced labour in the last six years.

One of the difficulties raised in the reports I have cited is the fact that we do not appear to be prosecuting to any great extent under the 2008 legislation. For example, the US State Department noted that although it regarded our anti-trafficking legislation as robust, not a single case had been taken under the 2008 Act. Of the cases that were taken, there was only one successful conviction in 2011, which was presumably taken under other legislation.

I am assuming that is because the 2008 legislation sets a very high bar for the successful conviction of persons for human trafficking offences. Perhaps the Minister can comment on whether it is deemed to be easier to secure convictions under other legislation. The fact remains that no matter how many laws we pass or how robust they are, if we do not prosecute under those laws, then it is not of any relevance to have them on the Statute Book.

I welcome the extraterritorial measures in the Bill because human trafficking knows no borders. We have recognised the importance of extraterritorial issues in other legislation, including, for example, the female genital mutilation legislation introduced in 2012. I also welcome sections 2 and 3 which provide for additional sanctions on officers or employees of public bodies. It is interesting to note that the definition of a public body includes any "body, organisation or group financed wholly or partly out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas that stands prescribed for the time being (being a body, organisation or group that, in the opinion of the Minister, ought, in the public interest and having regard to the provisions and spirit of this Act, to be prescribed)". That is a very wide definition indeed and can potentially cover a very significant number of bodies which receive funding from the State.

Forced labour is a modern day form of slavery. It behoves all of those bodies tasked in this area, including the HSE and the Department, as well as wider society to be conscious of the realities of forced labour. Indeed, organisations such as trade unions must be alive to the issues of forced labour.

I was very interested in Senator van Turnhout's observations on the au pair industry. I raised that issue myself in a previous debate on the vetting of persons working with children in the context of child protection. While hiring an au pair is, in theory, a very casual arrangement designed to provide a young person with the experience of living in another country, increasingly, due to current economic circumstances and the cost of child care, many people are using au pairs as the principal carers of their children. While it may not be possible for us, as a country acting alone, to regulate this area, it is something that must be examined at a European level because of the child protection implications.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. Human trafficking in any form, as most civilised people will agree, is nothing less than a grave evil and a serious violation of human rights. Any legislation proposed to strengthen, support and enforce laws against the exploitation, in any manner, of human beings must be embraced and supported. Estimates from the UN suggest that on a worldwide scale, between 700,000 and 4 million women and children are trafficked each year for the purpose of forced labour, forced prostitution, organ removal, forced begging and many other forms of exploitation. Many victims of human trafficking are subjected to the most evil of acts and terrible human violations such as rape, starvation, forced abortion and torture. If the victims refuse to co-operate, in many cases the lives and welfare of their families and loved ones are threatened.

The International Labour Organization estimates that the forced labour industry alone comprises some 2.4 million people. Even closer to home, the 2010 report of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on trafficking in persons to Europe for sexual exploitation stated that this is "one of the most lucrative illicit businesses in Europe", making approximately $2.5 billion per year. On a global scale, that figure jumps to $7 billion. One of the most frightening statistics I have read is that in Europe alone at any one time there are 140,000 victims forced into a vicious cycle of violence, abuse and degradation, and as terrible as this is, up to 70,000 additional victims are exploited each year.

Human trafficking is a deplorable form of slavery operating on a global scale, including in Ireland where, according to Cois Tine, victims are used to provide slave labour or are forced into prostitution. Ruhama is an organisation that is often mentioned approvingly in this House, rightly so. According to this Dublin-based NGO, which works at a national level with women who are affected by prostitution or are commercially exploited in other ways, human trafficking for sexual exploitation in Ireland is growing. Ruhama's first contact with a woman who was the victim of sex trafficking was in 2000, but over the last ten years, Ireland has become both a transit route and a destination point for sex trafficking. Although the number of women involved is unknown because of the secretive and the highly organised nature of this business, it is very clear that Ireland is included in an international crime web which extends across eastern Europe, South America and Africa. Most victims are young women from impoverished backgrounds who are sometimes abducted but more usually duped into undertaking the dangerous and illegal journey to Ireland. Often their traffickers are partners or members of their extended family.

During the last decade, Ireland has experienced a growth in the indoor sex trade in particular, involving escort agencies, massage parlours and lap dancing clubs. These provide indoor prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation. A devastating consequence of this is that the trafficking of women and children has thrived in the indoor sector. Indoor prostitution has often been viewed as more glamorous and socially acceptable than street prostitution partly because alcohol and drug abuse are not accepted in that arena. However, Ruhama's experience suggests that women involved in indoor prostitution experience more psychological problems and are, in some ways, more damaged by the process than those who work on the streets. It is a matter of serious concern that the indoor sex trade in Ireland is predominantly organised and controlled by organised crime gangs, both Irish and international.

Where is our regard for human dignity? How is it still the case that we tolerate advertisements for sex chat lines on TV3, for example, which are perfectly legal here? On this and other issues, including abortion, we must not let certain categories of human being disappear. We must not forget our duty of care and concern to whole categories of human being. We must include people from other lands who are vulnerable, having been duped or forced to come to our country. We must not allow any situation whereby the human dignity of such people is forgotten. That is unconscionable and we must do everything to resist and change that.

I especially welcome this Bill today but obviously, as Senator Hayden eloquently pointed out, enforcement will be the critical issue. I welcome the addition of the definitions for "beg" and "forced labour" in the Bill. This supports the recent UN report of February 2013, where the need for tougher efforts to identify, prevent and prosecute cases of forced labour, involving millions of people worldwide, was highlighted. An equally positive addition is the proposed amendment that would see very serious consequences for any public official involved in any way in human trafficking during the performance of his or her duties. Such people have special responsibilities and it is right and proper that there should be special consequences for any illegalities involving public officials. The proposed amendment of the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 is also most welcome and will ensure a public official involved in the sexual exploitation of children would also be liable to receive a more severe sentence for his or her actions.

In the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons report of 2012, Ireland was identified as a destination, source and transit country for women, men and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour, with forced labour victims found in domestic service and restaurant work. According to the report, some victims have been subjected to domestic servitude by foreign diplomats on assignment to Ireland in recent years. NGO experts described how cities such as Dublin, Kilkenny and Cork have children who are victims of forced prostitution. The report acknowledges that the Irish Government fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and also how it undertook crucial procedures in investigating and preventing domestic servitude among employees of diplomats.

However, it raised a concern about the lack of any full prosecution and conviction of trafficking offenders. We have come to the nub of the issue. Although a sex trafficker was convicted of prostituting a minor, that prosecution did not use the 2008 Act.

While all identified victims of human trafficking in Ireland receive services regardless of their immigration status, victims from non-EU countries also receive services and sought to obtain refugee status through the asylum process. However, some non-governmental organisations, NGOs, criticised this process for resulting in inadequate care and not providing enough protection of victims' rights, particularly when compared with the provisions on trafficked victims.

When it is known that there is the trafficking of human beings in Ireland, it must be seen as being completely unacceptable that, in the five years since the Act, not a single prosecution has been taken using that law. I accept that the Government has not stood still and deserves commendation for introducing initiatives such as the blue blindfold campaign, which raises awareness of human trafficking, but not enough has been done to protect innocent victims of this atrocious crime. Even one victim is one too many.

The guide to procedures for victims, which was published by the Department of Justice and Equality, addresses the services available to them and options for the future, among other matters. Thanks to the Immigration Council of Ireland, it was discovered that the Government had failed to outline procedures for human trafficking victims with special needs, be that in terms of physical or mental health, who had become pregnant as a result of sexual exploitation or who had become disabled through torture or violence. This issue cannot be put on the long finger. It must be discussed in detail now.

Not only should those who organise and control the sexual exploitation of men, women or children be convicted and severely prosecuted, but those who purchase sexual services are just as guilty and should be held accountable for their actions in the same way. The Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality is working on a report on this matter. On many issues, we face a dilemma when the Government, the media or the public sends mixed messages. We need to be clear. Apart from prosecuting wrongdoing, the law is an educator. What it permits and punishes contributes to what people do. It is a significant influencing factor in behaviour. When it comes to the question of whether we should criminalise the users of persons in prostitution, there can only be one answer - "Yes". We cannot have a situation in which a pimp or, in certain situations, a prostitute can be criminalised, yet the person who purchases sexual services cannot. It is no answer to claim that those who avail of prostitutes are sometimes sad people who are to be pitied. This can be reflected in sentencing. The message needs to be loud and clear - for the sake of human dignity, equality between men and women and the way in which the upcoming generation treats other people, it must be a crime to purchase another person's body. There is no other sane or civilised answer to the question. I hope we will move in this direction in the coming months and that the Government will take a principled decision on the issue and will not engage in double speak and hand-wringing about the sex industry, using unfortunate and meaningless cliches like "It has always been around". Murder has always been around, but we see fit to criminalise that, thank God. I hope the Government will take a lead, following the example of Nordic countries, and that we will see change.

I welcome the Minister of State and I am delighted to be present for this debate. I have been waiting for this day. I will outline my interest, in that I am a member of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, BIPA, which is working on a report on trafficking. I welcome and support the Bill. As the Minister of State has outlined its provisions, I will not stick to it, as I only have six minutes and have much to say.

We do not hear enough about this issue, yet it is second only to drug trafficking. Senator Mullen referred to how lucrative it can be. We rightly hear a great deal about drug trafficking, but I would like to hear more about human trafficking, forced labour and sexual exploitation. I hope that we are turning over a new leaf today. I congratulate the Minister of State and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, on introducing this Bill. The former has outlined how Ireland is one of the most compliant countries with EU directives, albeit not wholly. I will address this point later.

I welcome this open debate and the Minister of State's reference to a small number of issues that are still being considered ahead of Committee Stage and that she is amenable to accepting amendments to effect legislative change. Many problems have been identified during this debate for the Minister of State to consider. The BIPA took evidence in London, Wales, Scotland and Dublin and is working with the justice committee on a joint approach. People travel across borders, the reason for which the BIPA believed it necessary to address this matter. A person being trafficked from A to B must cross borders.

At 1 a.m. today, I returned from a meeting in Lithuania of an interparliamentary group on trafficking. Some time ago, the EU called for a European mapping system. We considered the issues of language and the definition of labour. The EU project is determining how to map trafficking and use the same language - numbers, terminology and definitions - across Europe. In 19 countries, not including Ireland, groups of parliamentarians have been set up to address this matter. On the Order of Business, I asked the Leader to consider setting up such a group to avail of computer technology. It is an EU-funded project of which we should avail. We are too late for the pilot project, but I asked at the weekend whether we could have observer status. A computer system will be developed and there is no point in Ireland re-inventing the wheel. We should be involved. Will the Minister of State take this suggestion on board to determine whether Ireland can participate as an observer? Five countries are involved in the pilot project and 19 are involved in the interparliamentary group. As I mentioned to Senator van Turnhout, our involvement could be under the auspices of BIPA's committee D or an all-party parliamentary group. The Government is doing much to scrutinise this issue through legislation, but are we doing what we are supposed to on a day-to-day basis?

The 57 states of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, which aims to protect citizens' human rights, have committed to ensuring that the return of victims of trafficking to their countries of origin is conducted voluntarily and with due regard to victims' safety. We must ensure that their return is voluntary rather than enforced. We must also ensure co-operation on risk assessment.

The Minister of State should consider 12 matters and how we measure up, including appropriate and secure accommodation, psychological and material assistance and access to emergency medical treatment, translations and interpretative centres. Senator Power referred to legal rights, counselling and information. Other matters include assistance to enable victims' rights to be presented and considered and access to education for children.

I also recommend the 60-day recovery period, followed by a six-month renewable temporary residence permission when trafficked, if people wish to assist the Garda Síochána. If, in individual cases, an extension period is necessary - every case is different - it should be considered. It is recommended by the EU that a national rapporteur be appointed in every country. I will send on these ideas to the Minister of State, as she said she would be open to other recommendations. She will not be let off the hook.

I welcome the Minister of State to the House and the Bill, as it is important we maintain the high standards in this area. We should also keep the lines quite clear in certain areas. I have had an interest in the matter for quite a long time. Over ten years ago I took part in a UN delegation to Thailand and was the chief author of a report on the trafficking of children and adults for sexual purposes. What I found was deeply disturbing. Ironically, I was rewarded by having this trip quoted against me by somebody, who I think probably knew the real situation, as if I had gone for the purposes of sexual exploitation myself. I say this just to show that I have a track record in the area and I have been interested in it for a very long time.

We all remember the disastrous effect on human lives of some of this rather horrible trade in Wexford a number of years ago, when some Kurdish people were brought from the Continent in a lorry that was sealed, with a number of them taking seriously ill or dying as a result. The practice can cause death at its extreme. When people are sold into the further exploitation of prostitution they can be subjected to gross violation and abuse of human rights, which is extremely worrying.

I support the Minister of State in this and particularly when she states that a person found guilty of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or exploitation with removal of human organs is liable to life imprisonment. I do not believe exploitation with regard to organ removal happens in this country and I would be very surprised if it did but we see some of the repercussions, and nothing is being done. For example, the recent exhibition in the Rotunda Hospital contained parts of people who never gave any consent for their bodies to be exposed, and it has been suggested by the Falun Gong that some of these people were members of the Falun Gong who had organs removed. We should take such issues seriously before we stand up piously and speak about things that only occur in other countries; when they land at our door we are delighted, and the exhibition was advertised all over national radio. It was an obscenity to have allowed this exhibition and there should be an inquiry into the issue. If we are serious about these matters we should raise them when they happen, as they do regularly in China and in India. It is one thing to be whiter than white in this country but we should really attack the problems where they occur.

There is an issue with begging, as young people are exposed to exploitation through begging on streets. It is a subject matter in itself, as is slavery and servitude, which happens to a certain extent with domestic help and the likes of Gama workers whose fate was exposed first in the other House by a left-wing Independent Deputy. It was only taken up by the then Government after it was repeatedly exposed in both Houses. I am very glad this Government has shown a serious commitment in that regard.

I raise another matter which has a tangential connection but it would be very dangerous to mix it up with the Bill, namely, prostitution. We should consider the issue with clear eyes and not a sanctimonious attitude. The Swedish example has been quoted and there has been a certain level of interest but it has not stopped prostitution. The kind of prostitution it attacks is largely dying out anyway, as the practice is now co-ordinated through phones and the Internet. It will not be stamped out. My interest is in the welfare of the women involved, and I have had to write to the relevant committee as it was not listening to these women. It refused to have some prostitutes as witnesses. If we get to a dangerous unanimity, where we are all pure as the driven snow, it will be terribly dangerous. I have spoken to one of the leading venereologists in the country, who has told me he is seriously concerned there will be a spread of disease. Australian reports provide a direct contradiction to the findings of the Swedish model.

I know I will probably be pilloried again for these comments but I believe in telling the truth. Going down this line would be extremely dangerous. I have never used the services of a prostitute but I have come in contact with them on a number of occasions. In one case a woman turned up at my house when I was relaxing on a Sunday evening. She said "Wahoo" and I said "Wahoo". She said, "Here I am", and I said "I can see that, but what are you doing?" She said that I rang for her but I told her I had not and I had no idea who she was. She said that some clients are shy and I twigged what was going on. I told her she was under a misapprehension and she knew not who she addressed, as I am probably Ireland's No. 1 fairy. She said "What?" and I told her it meant I am homosexual. She told me she was weak and asked for a drink. Having brought her in I asked her if she really wanted to do that type of work. She was extremely well dressed, highly intelligent and lovely young woman. She was being run by an agency in Cork and I brought her to where she was meant to go, which was an apartment in another part of the street. I told her that if the fellow tried anything nasty, she should tell him that I know about her and that he should get her a taxi home. I also rescued a prostitute working in the basement of the house next door.

I know about the issue at first hand so we must be careful and have a full debate on it, with not just one chorus of self-approving, moralistic and sanctimonious voices. It is very dangerous to say this has to be a crime - as was announced just beside me - without a debate, with no other position possible. We must consider these matters and I do not care if I am pilloried again. It is my responsibility as a Member of Seanad Éireann to tell the truth as I see it and try to ensure, before embarking on a particular course of action, that we can take in all the circumstances.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Lynch, to the House. I add my support to the Bill and I welcome the visitors in the Visitors Gallery and thank them for coming. The phrase "human trafficking" evokes a feeling of horror and revulsion in most people and trafficking causes unimaginable misery and suffering for those who are dehumanised and forced to become commodities that are bought, sold, used and abused. The idea that human beings can be exploited and used for financial gain or kept in virtual slavery sounds like it should belong in another era but unfortunately that is not the case.

It is difficult to estimate with accuracy the numbers of people being trafficked into and within Ireland for the purposes of labour or sexual exploitation as, unfortunately, the majority of cases do not come to the attention of authorities. However, from the reports of the Migrant Rights Centre, it would appear that forced labour is a growing problem, as Senator Keane noted, with the centre dealing with over 180 cases in the past six years. This Bill defines what is meant by forced labour, with the definition based on the International Labour Organization's definition of forced labour as all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily.

This Bill is necessary to copperfasten the measures already in place to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings and to bring us in line with the EU directive adopted in April 2011. As it stands, Ireland far exceeds the terms of the directive regarding the level of sanctions that can be imposed on a person found guilty of human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or exploitation for the removal of organs.

Such a person is liable to life imprisonment. This Bill extends the scope of our human trafficking legislation to include exploitation for forced begging and exploitation for criminal activities. The problem of forced begging is widespread throughout the EU with figures for 2010 stating that some 14% of those trafficked in the EU were forced into labour while 3% were made to beg on the streets and 1% were in domestic servitude. We have all many times witnessed the scene on our streets where very often we see a young woman with a baby in her arms sitting in the cold begging. The awful truth is that this woman may be in the control of a person who is forcing her to beg and hand up any money she gets or face the consequences. The amendment will provide that anyone who forces a person to beg is subjecting them to forced labour and will be penalised for this. This is very welcome.

The definition of exploitation in the EU directive also includes exploitation for criminal activities. This could include pickpocketing, shoplifting or drug trafficking. There had been widespread coverage in the media recently of the rise of so-called cannabis grow houses, where large volumes of cannabis have been found in various locations, often in isolated houses or sheds which have been set up with heating and irrigation systems to produce huge amounts of cannabis plants. It has emerged that often these grow houses are being worked by people who have been trafficked into Ireland by criminal gangs and forced to work in appalling conditions. The Migrant Rights Centre has reported that children and adults are trafficked across Europe for forced labour in these cannabis factories. They are moved usually by criminal networks across borders or within countries, often being forced to live as well as work in the grow houses. The use of physical violence or threats of violence is common to ensure compliance and prevent the victim from trying to escape.

Apart from addressing these issues through legislation, there is also a need to raise awareness among the public of the problem of human trafficking. People have to realise that suspicions of human trafficking should be reported to the authorities or else the victims may continue to be exploited in the most inhumane way, powerless to extricate themselves from lives of misery and danger. The Blue Blindfold anti-human-trafficking campaign, which was launched in 2008 in conjunction with the Department of Justice, the Garda Síochána and Crimestoppers, has an excellent website with advice and help for anyone with concerns about human trafficking.

I again welcome the Bill, but like my colleagues, I feel there are areas that must be examined further. Senator van Turnhout mentioned people with special needs. The Immigrant Council of Ireland has sent details to us, which the Minister also has. Secondary victimisation needs to be examined, where people are constantly made relate and tell their stories repeatedly. We need to ensure people are not subjected to the ordeal of relating their tale repeatedly.

Cuirim céad fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit agus cuirim fáilte roimh na cuairteoirí speisialta atá anseo chomh maith. Tá Sinn Féin ag tacú leis an moladh agus leis an reachtaíocht seo atá á thabhairt chun cinn, maidir le gáinneáil ar dhaoine agus coireanna uafásacha, gránna. Rud ar bith gur féidir linn a dhéanamh le cur i gcoinne é seo agus le tacú leis na híospartaigh a bhíonn ag plé leis, ba chóir dúinn sin a dhéanamh.

Sinn Féin commends the Minister for bring forward this legislation and supports it. Human trafficking is an odious crime and we have long demanded action on it to ensure it is effectively combatted and the victims of this crime well protected. Human trafficking is humiliating, dehumanising, abusive, exploitative and robs people of their dignity. Halting it must be a very high priority for any government. We have continually attempted to highlight that there is far more to human trafficking than sex trafficking and while this is a very significant proportion of it, we should also be aware that around the globe and across Ireland there are significant numbers of people trafficked to work in the domestic sector as well as in the agriculture and catering industries, which has been highlighted.

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has done excellent work in exposing these practices but the extent of trafficking for forced labour is still under-recognised. The digest kindly provided by the library and research facility highlights that some 24% of human trafficking in Ireland between 2009 and 2011 involved trafficking for the purposes of labour. Therefore we are glad to see the Minister bring forward this legislation to provide legislative protections in the area. It brings in an autonomous offence of forced labour, as has been highlighted, and states that the minimum standards as set out in Directive 2011/36/EU are to be adhered to, which is welcome and overdue. This legislation brings in a definition based on the International Labour Organization definition of forced labour, which is as follows: "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily".

We have long called for a specific offence of forced labour, and are glad the Minister has acted on it. There were difficulties in identifying and securing convictions for trafficking for forced labour. Previously, while trafficking for forced labour was an offence, forced labour and servitude in itself was not an offence. This was brought into law in the North under the British Coroners and Justice Act 2009, so all-Ireland harmonisation is important, particularly in an area such as trafficking, and we have called for that in numerous policy documents in recent times.

We were not alone in this view. The US State Department recommended that Ireland consider measures which would "explicitly criminalise forced labour and other forms of compelled service." Likewise the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, special representative and co-ordinator for combating trafficking in human beings stated that "the introduction of an autonomous offence of forced labour could be an additional tool to tackle the criminal phenomenon of labour exploitation".

The legislation also provides that public officials who are found guilty of certain trafficking offences in the course of their public duties will face harsher sentences. This is in line with the directive and is appropriate. It recognises that persons in such positions as these, for example, somebody working with a Department, is in a position of responsibility and has a certain duty of care to the victim, and to abuse that responsibility is a crime of particular seriousness, and therefore there should be particular penalties to discourage this.

I will take the opportunity, on Second Stage, to outline a number of concerns which are held by the Immigrant Council of Ireland. Many of these relate to the fact that the State should focus not only on bringing traffickers to justice, but also focus on ensuring that the victims of this heinous crime are protected and supported after their ordeal. Ireland has yet to clarify what supports and assistance will be provided to victims after criminal proceedings have concluded, as the EU directive requires. This is an issue on which Sinn Féin has called for action. We believe there should be a full range of protection and support measures as well as medical, professional, legal and psycho-social assistance that address the particular needs and risks faced by the individuals concerned and, where applicable, members of their families. We would like to see commitments in this regard which would outline the types of support and timelines for their provision.

The Immigrant Council of Ireland is also concerned that this legislation does not offer resolution to the outstanding issue of identification of victims. This has led to confusion about the levels of trafficking in Ireland and a very low rate of prosecutions. The Government should use this opportunity to outline how it plans to improve victim identification with a view to improving the support to and protection of victims and to prepare witnesses for criminal prosecution. Yesterday, we saw a day of action on the issue of direct provision, and we had a meeting today of the Seanad ad hoc group on direct provision. This is prompting much discussion and has raised much awareness, and these initiatives are very important. This is an issue on which we in the Seanad, and I in particular, have been very vocal. There is other EU legislation which must be enacted as a matter of urgency, particularly the EU reception conditions directive, the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the direct provision contravenes.

The service provided in direct provision accommodation is institutional and does not cater for the need of gender. Its is inadequate and inappropriate. It is, the Immigrant Council of Ireland submits, questionable whether it meets the EU directives requirement for appropriate and safe accommodation. The Immigrant Council of Ireland is also concerned at the failure to outline any procedure for victims of trafficking with special needs, including those with disabilities, health issues, pregnancy or trauma from physical, mental and sexual abuse. The council believes this to be a shortfall in the Bill.

The council is also very conscious of what is known as secondary victimisation, as was mentioned, whereby people who are trafficked are forced to recount time and again their horrific experiences. We should seek to ensure this is avoided where possible and Government needs to outline what measures and protocols will be taken on this, in line with the EU directive. On these issues, we will be considering amendments on Committee Stage and are asking the Government to consider these matters in the meantime, to respond and, if possible, to bring forward its own amendments to the legislation. I reaffirm our view that the Government must sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

This has been in force since June 2003 and is the only one of the core UN human rights treaties that the 26-county State has not signed. We also support ratification of the Palermo protocol on human trafficking from 2000 and we are committed to working with others, in particular to stop the trafficking of children. I urge the Minister of State to consider an all-Ireland approach to the problem of trafficking and ensure the Garda and the PSNI work hand in glove on this issue and develop an all-Ireland strategy to ensure PSNI-Garda co-operation to combat and prevent trafficking of people into the sex industry, bonded labour and forced labour, forced marriages, etc. We are happy to support this valuable and worthwhile legislation and commend the Minister of State for introducing it. Tréaslaím leis an Aire Stáit agus leis an Rialtas as ucht an píosa reachtaíochta an-tábhachtach seo a thabhairt chun cinn.

Cuirim fáilte ar ais roimh an Aire Stáit. I welcome the visitors in the Visitors Gallery. It is always good to have an opportunity to reflect on issues such as this. Human trafficking at the very least implies that one human being is of lesser value than another, particularly the person engaged in the trafficking. It is great that there is cross-party agreement in the House and we stand together to say this is not right or acceptable. Clearly, it is a human rights issue and, therefore, we must ensure our laws punish this demeaning behaviour whenever it happens. I am delighted for that reason to welcome the legislation, which will prevent and combat trafficking in human beings and protect its victims, and which replaces the Council framework decision for those and other purposes to amend and extend the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008.

This is another step along the way. We have had many discussions in the House on this issue. The legislation builds on our earlier discussions about the need to prosecute and criminalise those who purchase sexual services rather than the victims or the women who are vulnerable and often in difficult circumstances such as dire poverty and do not have a choice but to become the victims of clients who are prepared to purchase their services. I acknowledge we are still not quite there on this issue and it is the subject of an investigation by the justice committee but I look forward to us developing a response to this because we must achieve equality in this regard. We must set out to achieve a position where no human being is of lesser worth or value than another.

It is welcome that for the first time a definition of "forced labour" is being inserted in legislation to ensure this offence can be prosecuted in the State. I spoke with MRCI representatives earlier and I learned that 180 cases of forced labour over the past six years could not be prosecuted because it was not deemed a crime in this jurisdiction. That was a clear reason for us to act. By explicitly defining "forced labour" in the Bill, it can be prosecuted, which is welcome. One concern, however, is the definition is based on that in the 1930 International Labour Organization convention where work or a service is extracted from a person under the menace of a penalty and for which the person has not offered himself or herself voluntarily. Is the definition sufficiently clear to enable the Garda to prosecuted forced labour in this jurisdiction? That is the measure that would have to be used. Senator van Turnhout spoke eloquently about this issue.

The profile of victims affected by this is they agree to work under certain conditions of employment but when they enter into the employment, they find themselves engaged in forced labour due to deception. We have to accept in the first instance that many of these people are vulnerable before they take up the work and this vulnerability is abused by the employer or the trafficker. I support Senator Moran's comment that it is critical that such behaviour be reported. While there is silence, abuse and bullying will continue and this is an extreme form of bullying and abuse.

The Bill will also address trafficking for forced begging and criminal activity. The cross-party agreement is very welcome. I agree with the Minister for Justice and Equality who said we have a duty to ensure vulnerable individuals are not exploited and a comprehensive approach is taken to tackling the evil of human trafficking. If there is one thing the Government is doing, we are coming together on this issue from many angles. Human trafficking is complex and difficult to pin down as it traverses jurisdictions. We are doing a good job with this legislation. The two new provisions in the legislation will offer crucial, additional protection for those at risk of trafficking. I support the comments regarding vulnerable groups such as people with special needs and learning difficulties, migrant workers, minors and au pairs because they can also be vulnerable. We do not want them to be trafficked also.

I welcome the Minister of State and the visitors in the Visitors Gallery to the House. The Bill, which is also welcome, is trying to achieve something I tried to achieve through my own recent Bill, the Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2012, partly as a response to the dreadful treatment of Mr. Muhammad Younis.

The MRCI has dealt with more than 180 cases of forced labour over the past six years in Ireland. That is a reminder of what is happening but I am sure that is only the tip of the iceberg, with many other workers too frightened to come forward and I can understand why. This type of forced labour has been described as modern slavery, with coercion and psychological abuse being used to extract consent in a range of overt or more subtle ways. For example, a person may withhold a passport or legal documents or otherwise threaten a worker's family. That is what happened in the case of Muhammad Younis. These workers mainly operate in non-unionised, unregulated sectors such as private homes, the agriculture, restaurant and entertainment industries as well as the care and construction sectors. Trafficking for sexual exploitation, which has been mentioned by numerous speakers, remains the greatest concern, especially when children are involved.

Let us also not forget the Magdalen laundries and that horrific form of forced labour. The State was even involved in purchasing services. As the State continues to be such a large purchaser of goods and services, how it is ensuring there are no elements of forced labour or human trafficking in the supply chain is a big question. I understand that the Australian Government intends to introduce legislation whereby it will only buy from companies that have demonstrated they have made an effort to cut out any possibility of forced labour. Given that public procurement is worth billions of euro, why are the Government and the public sector not examining themselves if they are serious about tackling trafficking in human beings? Too often the public sector and the Government fail to examine their own role in issues such as this. Would the Minister of State be open to looking at this issue to legislate in order that public procurement has a role in ensuring it has no part in forced labour? Surely we should learn from the past in this regard. By making this move, the Government could go beyond a mere apology and demonstrate how it will not support such situations in any form or manner.

Retailers and businesses can also play a role in helping to limit the effects of human trafficking and forced labour. In recent years there was an interesting development in California called the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act which applies to all retail sellers or manufacturers doing business anywhere in the state of California with $100 million or more in annual worldwide gross revenues. It does not have to have $100 million gross revenues in California but if it is a company that has $100 million anywhere in the world then it applies to them in California. Specifically it requires that retail sellers and manufacturers disclose their efforts to combat forced labour and human trafficking and to eliminate it from their direct supply chains. Specifically retailers and manufacturers must conduct audits of suppliers to evaluate supplier compliance with company standards for trafficking and forced labour in supply chains. It may be worthwhile for the Minister to take heed of the essence of that particular Bill. By having such a piece of legislation, we could at least get larger businesses to think about human trafficking and if the larger businesses do it, other businesses will follow. As we all know, some of the large clothing companies have been involved in malpractices regarding labour. Do we want to be part of that even in a small way? I believe it could be very helpful if large companies with, say, a turnover of €50 million were required to disclose publicly the efforts they are making to avoid forced labour anywhere along the supply chain. We need to do more in regard to regulating the activities of employment agencies and to monitor them more often in order to prevent abuse and exploitation. There may also be a need for more random checks on private homes or businesses as much of this forced labour goes on behind closed doors. Would the Minister be open to increasing checks in this way?

However, I have concerns with implementing more legislation when so little has been done. I reference particularly the recent European Commission report on human trafficking which has highlighted that although 13 Irish citizens were suspected of being involved in human trafficking between 2008 and 2010, none was actually prosecuted. Therefore, will this legislation be of any use from that point of view? As the Minister mentioned, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, found that up to 60% of trafficking victims are being denied full entitlements and benefits as they are treated as asylum seekers. Steps have to be taken in that area. The Minister has touched on it and I urge the her to pass the legislation and to develop it further in the period ahead.

Like others, I welcome the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013 which will expand the definition of human trafficking and ensure people are not exploited for the purposes of forced begging and criminal activity. I would like, if I may, to start by thanking people who work in Ruhama and the Migrant Rights Centre and the many others who have worked enormously hard with something that is difficult to work with, an invisible business for many people, particularly for ordinary citizens going about their daily lives. It is hard to ask people to stop and think about something they may not see. Much of the efforts of the past ten years to push this desperate problem to the point where in this House many Members who are informed and who care are queuing up to speak is due to the work the Minister of State has done and I salute her efforts.

I thank also those people who are engaged with the matter. I am proud to say I have correspondence, probably on a weekly basis, from my constituents in Sligo and Leitrim urging me always to take this matter seriously. They are ordinary people going about their work persuading others to take the issue seriously. That is due to the work the Minister of State has done and people are beginning to listen. The great dilemma is that by and large it is still invisible. It is not invisible, although much of it happens behind closed doors but for many Irish people there is still the difficulty of actually believing much of this is true and that it can happen on their own doorstep in their own towns and cities. Part of the battle that we all share is the visibility level. While there are many stories, case studies and statistics it is still difficult for people to accept and believe that this is happening. In many ways I think it is down to the word "trafficking".

It does not describe the problem for me. As the Minister of State said we should call it what it is, slavery, as other have done. It is slavery. Perhaps that is a word that would resonate more clearly with members of the public and would help them to begin to understand that this is a massive problem of our time and that once there is money to be made in trafficking, slavery, the pushing around the world of vulnerable poor people will continue. There is no question about that. The United Nations global initiative to fight human trafficking is evidence not only that the United Nations is involved and has an initiative but that the problem continues to grow. It is not as if countries do not care or that individual states have not put effort into it. Ireland is well recognised for having made considerable effort and yet it is clear from the contributions today and the reading I have done that it is difficult to get prosecutions. While much work has been done in regard to joined up thinking, holding conferences and appointing people to deal with the matter, the issue is growing. It is growing because of poverty and war and the fact that money can be made out of women and children and trafficking people for organ removal and for the sex industry which is as old as we are.

I welcome the legislation. This is Second Stage and it may be slightly bewildering for the people in the Visitors Gallery. As we tend to mention everything on Second Stage, there has been a wide range of contributions. I guess that shows the level of engagement there is and the level of concern we have for the many matters that still need to be addressed. We should say this is a good amendment which, I hope, will clarify the legislation. I ask the Minister of State whether, with the enactment of this legislation, which has cross-party support, there will be more resources for Operation Quest, the Garda intervention operation? We can legislate until we fall over but unless we have the capacity to enforce it, as Senator Jillian van Turnhout and others have said, we are struggling. It is okay to transpose European Union directives but we must have the resources to make it happen on the ground.

I wish to refer to the organ removal issue. This is an issue about which we do not know a great deal because, by and large, we are not aware of the enormous lucrative trade particularly in the US where there is a dispute about when people die as to whether one donates or sells one's organs. The whole idea of selling organs has yet to arrive in this country. Once that takes hold we will have a very different situation. That various body parts can be ground down and used for other materials and medical devices means the trade is enormous. Into the future that is an issue we will have to take account of because I think it will become a difficult aspect of the human trafficking business.

As no other Senators are offering, I invite the Minister of State to conclude the debate.

I thank everyone who has contributed. As I have stated previously, I am always fascinated by the range of debate in the Seanad.

The Minister of State needs to tell her colleagues.

I do regularly. Of course, the range of debate in this instance is far outside the scope of the Bill. Nevertheless, it is still worth listening to because, like everything else that we are trying to do in government and like everything else that every Government tries to do, nothing stands still. One must continually ensure not alone that one is keeping up to date with the possible need for amendments to legislation and new legislation, but also that one is trying to foresee at all stages the need for additional legislation. Whether it is in terms of organ donation, sale or whatever, or the taking and holding of documents and all of that area, it is important that we have debates like this. It is nice to see that one can have a debate that is as wide-ranging as this, even through it is far outside the scope of the Bill.

On trafficking in human beings, I would have to concur with Senator O'Keeffe's conclusion. I have always believed that language is incredibly important and powerful. Somehow trafficking gives us the impression that it is something that happens to others, it is a particular subset and it is for a particular reason. We really need to name it for what it is - slavery. I am not even inclined to say "modern-day slavery" because that assumes that it is a different type of activity whereas, in fact, if one was to take a look at slavery as we assumed it originally occurred and as it has continued, it is for exactly the same purposes. It is exactly the same. There is no difference.

Trafficking in human beings should not be tolerated and everything possible should be done to ensure the protection of those vulnerable to trafficking and to bring the perpetrators to justice. The EU directive is one element of regional and global action against human trafficking. That is a good aspect of Ireland's membership of the EU. Senator Bradford referred to this. Even though I am conscious that persons suffer from forced labour and are being blackmailed and incarcerated within the State as well and that we cannot dismiss anything, the fact that Ireland is a member of the European Union gives us greater clout on the transnational or cross-border issues and gives us greater scope for action.

On global action against human trafficking, we must do everything in our power to address the issue at national level and to assist regional and international efforts directed at preventing and combating this crime, protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers. In order to tackle recent developments in the phenomenon of trafficking in human beings, the EU directive adopts a broader concept of what should be considered human trafficking. To comply fully with the directive's minimum detention definition of exploitation, the Bill criminalises trafficking for the purposes of forced begging and criminal activities. Human trafficking is an abhorrent abuse of human rights and our legislation must keep pace with global developments in this heinous crime.

The Minister is grateful for the opportunity the Bill presents to define forced labour. Senator van Turnhout was concerned about this. The International Labour Organization definition is the international standard and the Bill follows that standard. In addition to bringing clarity to the meaning of the term, the Minister believes the definition will send a strong message that those who extract labour from persons, without those persons' freely given and informed consent, can be held accountable under the law. That is part and parcel of what we are trying to do.

I will try to address some of the issues that arose. Although outside the scope of the Bill and even though the debate must take place, the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality is looking at the issue of prostitution, in particular, and a report will be prepared. It is a matter of significant interest to the Department and the Minister. I am not certain yet where it will fall but, nevertheless, it will be responded to.

In response to Senators Power and van Turnhout, legal aid is available to all victims of trafficking from the Legal Aid Board which has a dedicated unit in this regard. A care plan for every victim of trafficking is drawn up by the anti-human trafficking team in the HSE. It covers all needs that may arise, including those with special needs. I take on board that it is a spectrum and that we need to be conscious of having an early detection system. I also take on board the importance of being committed to ensuring that victims are both protected and cared for.

Senator van Turnhout asked whether there is a recommendation by the European Council that EU states set up a national rapporteur on trafficking and whether Ireland have this as an office or similar function. The EU directorate provides for the establishment of a national rapporteur or equivalent mechanism, and the tasks of such a mechanism can include the carrying out of assessments of trends in trafficking in human beings and the measuring and reporting of results of anti-trafficking actions, including the gathering of statistics in close co-operation with relevant civil society organisations active in this field. I think that, as a small country, we are well served by these organisations, and I do not say that merely because there are representatives of one or two organisations in the Visitors Gallery today. Their ability to communicate their message to those of us who are in a position to act is hugely important. I think they understand - perhaps later on they will tell me they do not - that they have an open door when it comes to accessibility to politicians who have an interest in the area. The national rapporteur role is currently being carried out by the anti-human trafficking unit of the Department of Justice and Equality. Independent evaluation is provided by a number of international organisations, such as the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Both organisations visited Ireland in 2012 and their reports will feed in to the policy.

Senator Hayden and others commented on prosecutions. There were seven prosecutions last year under the 2008 Act. They have not been concluded and that is probably why they do not appear. We all are conscious of the position of the man referred to and the fact that we could not prosecute because it was not considered to be a crime. This amending legislation will have a significant impact on where we are going. Of course, how it is implemented must be kept under close review.

In terms of Garda resources, the Garda Commissioner is the person who comes to the Minister for Justice and Equality to state he needs additional resources, and that has not happened so far. I am sure the Commissioner would know when additional resources are needed. It is not as if he and the Minister do not meet regularly; they do.

I was asked whether the State offers victims of trafficking alternatives to fully satisfy the requirement of voluntary returns. We are all conscious that when someone is taken from their own place and brought to a different country by way of trafficking or slavery - perhaps the language around that will change soon - and wishes to return, we need to be careful how that return is put in place.

The alternatives to voluntary repatriation for victims of human trafficking are set out in the administrative immigration arrangements for the protection of victims of human trafficking, which outlines the procedures for suspected victims of trafficking in human beings, and immigration status is required to be considered. These outline that such a person may be granted a period of recovery and reflection in the State and may also be granted one or more periods of temporary residency in the State. It also outlines how such a person may apply for a change of status allowing him or her a more enduring permission to remain in the State.

I thank the Senators. I am sure any issues which have not been answered will be raised again with the Minister, who looks forward to the passage of the Bill through both Houses.

I would have loved to have been able to extend the time available to the Minister of State but it is not in my power and I must keep to the timetable. I thank the Minister of State for her co-operation and all Senators.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 30 April 2013.