Thursday, 29 January 2004

Questions (17)

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

14 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the action being taken to combat the reported trafficking of women, especially from Eastern Europe, for purposes of prostitution here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2508/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform)

The Garda Síochána is ever vigilant to ensure that any allegations relating to the trafficking of women for purposes including prostitution are vigorously investigated. "Operation Quest" was set up under the direction of the Assistant Commissioner, Dublin Metropolitan Region, to target human trafficking-exploitation and associated crime in relation to lap dance clubs in Dublin. The operation consists of members from local detective units working alongside members from the Garda National Immigration Bureau and the Criminal Assets Bureau. This investigation is on-going and, where appropriate, files will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In view of the exponential growth in the level of immigration in Ireland over the past number of years, all members of the Garda Síochána are now being advised of the need to be mindful of the possibility of trafficking in women for purposes such as prostitution. Any cases where evidence of trafficking for purposes such as prostitution is disclosed will be fully investigated.

Of its nature it is impossible to be precise about the extent, in Ireland of persons being trafficked for the purposes of prostitution or sexual exploitation, but I am very conscious of the growing problem of trafficking in human beings particularly throughout the European Union. That is why I am actively pursuing, for example the transposition into Irish law of the EU Framework Decision on Trafficking in Human Beings; the ratification of the UN Transnational Crime Convention with its Protocol on Trafficking in Human Beings; and the EU Council Framework Decision on Joint Investigation Teams.

The Garda authorities report that since the enactment of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000 there have been nine cases of trafficking investigated by the Garda National Immigration Bureau where sexual exploitation has been disclosed as the motive.

Finally, I also provided grant funding in 2003 to Ireland En-Route, a forum made up of statutory organisations and voluntary groups set up in 2000 to investigate and address the problem of trafficking in women and children for sexual exploitation. This forum is currently conducting research into the extent of the problem in Ireland.