International Human Trafficking: Motion (Resumed).
The following motion was moved by Deputy Denis Naughten on Tuesday, 17 November 2009:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes with alarm that:
a minimum of 102 women and girls have been clearly identified in a recent report as sex trafficked in 2007 and 2008, 11 of whom were children when they arrived in Ireland and that none of these women knew they were destined for the Irish sex trade;
up to 97% of the 1,000 women involved in indoor prostitution in Ireland at any given time are migrant women;
victims of trafficking are identified by this Government as illegal immigrants first and consequently imprisoned and identified as victims second; and
this Government offers no independent accommodation or support services to victims of trafficking;
several European countries have successfully tackled human trafficking and forced prostitution by the introduction of legislation criminalising the buying of sex; and
the UK is introducing legislation to reduce prostitution and human trafficking which will directly impact on the Republic of Ireland;
calls on the Government to:
end the policy of placing victims of human trafficking in asylum centres and introduce independent accommodation, support and protection services;
extend the 'period of recovery and reflection' as defined in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2008 now before Dáil Éireann;
move the focus on human trafficking from Garda National Immigration Bureau to the Garda Organised Crime Unit;
extend the remit of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform's Anti-Human Trafficking Unit to include migrant women in prostitution; and
establish a high level group to examine our prostitution laws with a view to preventing the proliferation of sex trafficking.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"—welcomes the establishment of a dedicated Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform prior to the enactment of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which involves wide-ranging consultation with governmental, non-governmental and international organisations and the establishment in 2009 of a dedicated Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit in the Garda National Immigration Bureau;
welcomes the penalty provisions in the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which go beyond the minimum period provided for in international instruments;
welcomes the Minister's decision to alter the Administrative Immigration Arrangements for the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking and the provisions in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill to increase the provision of a 45 day recovery and reflection period to a 60 day period for recovery and reflection as a precursor to a six months temporary period of residency in the State, which is renewable;
notes that the 60 day recovery and reflection period goes beyond the minimum period of 30 days provided for in the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings and is longer than that offered by many EU Member States;
welcomes the publication in June 2009 of the comprehensive National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings in Ireland 2009-2012 which was prepared under the auspices of a High Level Group and provides a blueprint for the State's response to human trafficking;
acknowledges the range of legislative and administrative supports and services in terms of health care, legal services, anonymity, giving of evidence by video link etc. which have been put in place to assist potential and suspected victims of trafficking;
recognises that the Reception and Integration Agency has a wide range of accommodation available in which the needs of victims can be addressed;
acknowledges that the Garda Síochána is the sole authority within the State vested with the power to undertake an investigation into a claim that an offence of human trafficking has been perpetrated and having regard to such powers reaffirms that the Garda Síochána is the appropriate authority to consider if there are reasonable grounds for believing that an offence may have been committed;
acknowledges the deployment of Garda resources is a matter for the Garda Commissioner based on his professional assessment of the operational requirements;
commends the concerted efforts of the Garda Síochána in regard to the provision of training, the identification and protection of victims and in the determined fight against trafficking in human beings in Ireland and notes the progress being made in this regard;
acknowledges the supporting role that organisations and individuals engaged in this area can provide to potential victims of human trafficking; recognising the importance of those organisations in encouraging and supporting such persons when engaging with the state authorities to assist in the fight against human trafficking and in supporting early identification of potential victims of human trafficking;
recognises the provision in the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act that made it an offence to solicit a trafficked person, in any place, public or private, for the purpose of prostitution;
notes that the Report commissioned by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, entitled ‘Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution — The Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland' has been referred by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of his Department for examination; and
welcomes the ongoing review by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform of the laws on prostitution including monitoring the operation of prostitution laws in other countries so that any changes to those laws which might be proposed in Ireland would be in the best interests of society."
—(Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.)
I welcome the opportunity to discuss human trafficking and I compliment Deputy Naughten and the Fine Gael Party on tabling this detailed motion, which covers many of the issues that need to be addressed. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform replied with a detailed amendment to most of the motion, as is par for the course, but a great deal of work remains to be done in this situation.
Last year, there was a flurry of activity in the Department, but there was little activity up to that. We were unable to sign the United Nations convention on the trafficking of human beings until we introduced legislation, which we eventually did 12 months ago via the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. We are still awaiting the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which is long promised. An anti-trafficking unit was established through the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and an investigative unit in the Garda national immigration bureau, GNIB. A national action plan was also produced. This worthwhile flurry of activity in the past 12 months is welcome, but it was built on nothing, as zero had been done up to that time. The authorities were finding their feet in terms of dealing with the major issue of trafficking.
The first aspect we must recognise is that trafficking in human beings, particularly women and children with an emphasis on young girls, is widespread. It is regarded by the United Nations as the world's third largest industry. Some 1.5 million people are trafficked every year, 50% of whom go through the EU. The EU's industry accounts for approximately €35 billion to €45 billion annually, which is an incredible amount of money. We are discussing a major industry that is entirely criminal. In Ireland, it is undoubtedly worth millions of euro, from the trafficking process itself to the proceeds from brothels and so-called massage parlours. It is a highly lucrative trade and an abuse of the human rights of the individuals involved, mainly women and young girls. It is a growing trade.
The authorities are not sufficiently proactive in tackling this serious criminal issue. It is not sufficient for authorities or agencies to sit back and wait for victims of trafficking to come to them. We know how difficult that can be. The entire activity is run by gangs, people who will terrorise their victims. The majority of these victims are non-nationals who do not speak the language and who fear what may happen to them. They have no accommodation or papers of their own. For someone in that situation, it is difficult to come forward and seek the protection of the authorities, be they gardaí, the HSE, social services or voluntary agencies. They do not know what will happen to them.
I firmly believe that the Garda's organised crime unit, not the GNIB, should deal with this crime. The main focus of attention should not be the GNIB. It is easy to understand why that is the direction taken by the Department, since the people who are trafficked are non-nationals. Clearly, the GNIB is a major link, but we are discussing a serious crime against humanity. Therefore, the full rigour of the criminal justice code should be brought to bear. Only since last year have we had legislation that criminalises and imposes penalties on human trafficking. Now that we have it, we should implement it stringently. The only way to do so is by applying the full rigour of the law and by using the full powers available to the Garda.
Ruhama, a wonderful organisation that produced its biennial report in August, indicated that it had dealt with 200 women trafficked into Ireland during the past decade. Last year, it dealt with 57 women who had been trafficked into the country, 35 of whom were new referrals and 28 of whom were trafficked during 2008. Some of the people in question were minors. This compares with 26 trafficked women who Ruhama dealt with in 2006. The number doubled in the space of two years. Clearly, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Ruhama has outreach activities, but it will deal with only a tiny number of the victims involved. The women who come to Ruhama's attention have the courage to escape their exploitation.
We must examine the issue from the other point of view, in that the Garda must be proactive in seeking to engage this criminality. By proactive, I mean contacts with Interpol, which are not good in this respect, and the use of surveillance equipment to monitor the massage parlours and brothels that have sprouted up around the country. Since the majority of people who came to Ruhama's attention were based outside Dublin, the industry is not limited to a particular urban area. There is suggestive advertising on the Internet and in the print media. It needs to be monitored. If a massage parlour presents itself as having beautiful girls and so on, one can bet one's life that other activities are going on. Trafficked people work in many of those parlours. This matter must be carefully considered.
The Department must address the issue of accommodation and referrals, as victims cannot be dealt with in the current hostel accommodation. They cannot be sent into the mainstream asylum accommodation that the Department provides. Safe, secure and supportive accommodation must be provided by the Department in a flexible manner that links up with non-governmental organisations.
This problem arises because there is a market for prostitution. We need to address current legislation and practices, which are primarily directed towards criminalising and prosecuting individual providers of sexual services instead of the pimps organising the prostitution and the clients who purchase it. Criminal law and Garda activities need to refocus on the pimps, who are making fortunes from trafficking and exploiting women. Attacking the issue at its roots is the only way through which substantial progress can be made.
I understand I have five minutes and that Deputy Connick is next.
I understand Deputy O'Rourke is proposing to share time with Deputies Connick, White, Cuffe, O'Connor and Conlon.
I did not realise I was quite so generous. Anyway, that is fine. I am delighted.
I commend Deputy Naughten on this motion. It is his brief at front bench and he has been extremely active in following up all of the matters relating to human trafficking. In the nature of a debate like this, we record what is good and what could be done to make it better. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 became operational, as the House will be aware, in June 2008. Ruhama, which is a voluntary group dealing in areas such as this, was mainly responsible for the gestation and the promulgation of that Bill, and made a valuable input to the legislation. In the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill, which has completed Committee Stage and is now awaiting Report Stage, the period of recovery and reflection of 45 days is to be increased to 60 days. The High Level Interdepartmental Group on Combat Trafficking of Human Beings is active at what it is doing. What I very much applaud is the level of training. There is a significant level of training for the gardaí in training in Templemore, and a wide range of training and awareness raising initiatives have been undertaken, and even more are planned.
The information seminar provided in February 2009 was attended by approximately 40 diplomats in the Department of Foreign Affairs being posted abroad to a variety of missions including Africa and Asia, and that will have been helpful for them. Like all good initiatives, however, these pieces of legislation, the training, the high level interdepartmental group within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and, equally, all of the fine measures which have been undertaken, constantly need appraisal and reflection and, hopefully, changes.
These people are brought to this country under considerable blandishments and pictures painted of how better life will be for all of them once they reach this land. Of course they realise when they land that it is far from the pictures that were painted for them and it behoves us to act with all decency and with the best shelter and accommodation that we can provide.
In Athlone there is a large asylum seekers centre in which in the beginning there were over 400 separate accommodations. The numbers have wound down and I would say there are approximately 200 separate ones. I do not know if such an environment is quite the right place for reflection and renewal. There are fine people in it. I deal with them every Saturday in my clinic. They are getting on with their lives, as are their children, and making their applications to remain on humanitarian grounds. Life is busy for them. I do not know if it is quite the correct environment for women and girls who have been trafficked for prostitution in which to replenish and renew themselves. I rather think not. I hope that there will be a rethink on this particular aspect.
I welcome the improvements that have been made, the legislation which has been passed and remains to be passed, the high level interdepartmental group, the training which is being given, and that we will increase our period of reflection to 60 days, which is among the highest in the European countries. I signal how well European countries can work together in a positive way when all of these matters are being discussed between parties within Europe and hope they can tighten the net on those who seek to continue their dreadful life of trafficking people and, in particular, bring some solace to such women and girls who find themselves trafficked to a strange land where no one knows them and no one talks to them. They must cope with a language they do not know, only the one to get out and earn money and bring it back because it is, as Deputy Costello stated, a big business. I hope that there will be further reflections on how people are to be treated during their period of renewal.
I thank Deputy O'Rourke for sharing her time with us. I am glad to get the opportunity to make a small contribution to tonight's debate. Human trafficking is an affront to each and every one of us and all sides of the House are agreed and unified on that. The Government takes the issue of human trafficking seriously. I also thank Deputy Naughten for putting forward the motion because it raises awareness, which is extremely important.
We all in Wexford, like the Leas-Ceann Comhairle, are acutely aware of the awful tragedy that unfolded there in 2001 when stowaways were put on a truck in Belgium. Thirteen people who were looking forward to coming to Ireland for a bright future and what they thought would have been a new start for their families were told the journey would take three hours. However, four days later the container arrived in Drinagh in Wexford. The awful tragedy unfolded on the opening of the container when it was found that there were eight people dead, including three children, and only five survived. It puts a face on, and brings a dose of reality to, the difficulty encountered by these people who come to Ireland for a better life and find themselves in an appalling situation and taken advantage of.
Also last year Wexford featured on a "Panorama" programme which looked at the trafficking of individuals across Europe. Wexford featured because an individual from Bulgaria interviewed alluded to the fact that he was using Rosslare and Ireland as a backdoor to bring people into the UK. It goes to show how organised, well financed and highly mobile are these people. Once there is significant money involved people are prepared to take advantage of people who perhaps are at a weak point in their lives.
We all also have heard the stories of the young women who have been lucky enough to escape and who have been able to tell us the horrific details of the conditions in which they have been held here in Ireland. I believe one of them was recently being used in a brothel in Waterford but living in Wexford and travelling in a car by day. She was duped into coming to the country on the pretext that a better life was to be had and that she would earn money. Of course, once signed up to that sort of a scenario, such women are taken advantage of by these ruthless individuals who have only one focus in mind.
I welcome the motion on the basis of raising awareness. Given the nature of human trafficking, the onus is on each and every one of us to ensure that if we are aware of a situation, or if we are concerned or even suspicious, we should bring it to the authorities' attention. I welcome the fact that the Government runs an awareness raising campaign aimed at the public and personnel likely to encounter victims of this trafficking. Training is also given to the gardaí and other relevant front-line staff. That is vitally important and is a welcome step.
I also note that it is State policy not to remove any person from the country who may potentially be a victim of trafficking. That is something that was of much discussion during our debates on the immigration Bill. Potential victims have access to a wide range of services. These also are important and need to be bolstered and reinforced. Of course the Legal Aid Board gives legal advice and assistance to potential and suspected victims of the trafficking.
I also welcome the fact that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has committed to reviewing a report published by the Immigration Council of Ireland entitled "Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution: The Experiences of Migrant Women in Ireland". I welcome that kind of openness, including working with the various organisations, including Ruhama, and encourage more of that. I commend the Minister and his predecessor on their efforts on our behalf. This is a serious issue and something we need to stamp out. I appeal to those who take advantage of these women, particularly Irish people who frequent various houses, to look into their consciences. When coming out of such a facility they should think about what they have done. I appeal to their human nature to report the issue and bring it to the attention of the authorities.
I thank Deputy O'Rourke for sharing her time. I am delighted to be able to speak on this issue, which is so important. I thank Deputy Naughten for bringing it before the House. It is apt that we are approaching the 12 days, commencing next week, which will highlight the problem of violence against women. In dealing with our constituents we all hear these sad stories about the plight of women and children being trafficked between countries for the purposes of sexual or labour exploitation. It is horrendous and leaves behind a trail of trauma, abuse, displacement, separation from families and so much more.
This debate is important in reminding the House of the seriousness of such offences, the need for our country to play its part in the international crackdown on trafficking, and for Ireland to show compassion and care in treating victims of trafficking. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and other State agencies have made progress in bringing Ireland's responses more into line with those of our European neighbours.
The measures provided for in the 2008 Act are significant in that they set out the framework for punishing those convicted of human trafficking. In particular, there is provision for a penalty of life imprisonment for offences such as the selling of individuals, or the purchase or offer to purchase individuals. This sends out a very strong signal to those who might be thinking of this nefarious trade.
The Department's anti-trafficking unit is another part of the State's process for combating and dealing with human trafficking issues. The unit does great work with State agencies, NGOs and others to make the responses co-ordinated and cohesive. There is no point in having an arm of the Government doing one thing, but not knowing what the other arm is doing. We need a strong, cohesive drive to combat human trafficking, which is horrendous.
Non-governmental organisations involved in the fora established by the unit are crucial to this work, particularly in raising awareness in society at large. If the public is not aware of these issues the chances of cracking down on human trafficking are diminished. When we walk along a street or go into a shop or restaurant we do not know whom we are standing beside. They may be trafficked people who are being policed. We must ensure that the laws are there to combat such trafficking.
I compliment members of An Garda Síochána on playing their part in the legislation that is now in place. Combating human trafficking is one of the main priorities of An Garda Síochána. The provision of specialised training at the Garda training college is very important in this regard. More than 1,000 gardaí have received training in the detection of human trafficking.
Cross-departmental and State agency training is also vital, and the National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, has been to the fore in this respect. We have read stories about people who have been trafficked into Ireland who are living in appalling conditions. They receive hardly any pay and live in cramped conditions. They lose everything, including their human dignity. That has to be stopped.
Deputy Naughten referred to the current Immigration Bill and its implications for victims of trafficking. I am pleased that the period of recovery and reflection is now expected to be extended to 60 days on Report Stage. That is already in place in the administrative immigration arrangements. Victims need compassion as well as time and space to recover and adapt to a world where their experience of terror has been lifted. They must be given a chance to assist An Garda Síochána in preparing cases for prosecution. The work of An Garda Síochána has already helped to bring about prosecutions in Romania and has led to charges being brought in other countries.
Like Deputy Connick, I remember the time when a container arrived through Rosslare and came to County Kilkenny. It was parked and some unfortunate victims of trafficking escaped into woodland at Inistioge, near where I live.
I want to see the issue of migrant women in prostitution being covered by the Department's anti-human trafficking unit. I hope the Minister and his Department will rectify this at the earliest opportunity. The Government must build on the work it has done on this issue.
I will finish by citing the poignant words of Maya Lou Angelou, that great poetic voice for women. Her wisdom says it all for us, "The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." Our laws need to be the safe place for trafficked women and victims of sexual abuse.
I welcome the debate on this hugely important issue. I thank Fine Gael for tabling the motion. I also wish to thank the Immigrant Council of Ireland for its work in bringing to the fore the issue of sexual trafficking. This matter does not get the attention it deserves in public discourse. Trafficking in people is a terrible, clandestine crime. Its victims are invariably in a weaker position to access the State's support services. There are language barriers, unfamiliarity with surroundings, shame and fear.
The Government's response is not lacking in many areas, but there is more we can do. The establishment of the trafficking victims' unit is part of the legislative response that has been put in place. In many ways, it is a good response. It could have happened earlier, but it represents clear progress in this area. As we look towards the passing and enactment of the Immigration (Residency and Protection) Bill, more must be done to tackle this issue in more detail. We need to examine the extension of the period of recovery and reflection during which victims of trafficking may reside in the State. I welcome the announcement that it will increase from 45 to 60 days under the terms of the Bill before us. The Green Party has had many meetings with the Minister and his officials on this and many other points in the Bill.
There have been calls to decouple the procedure by which someone is granted temporary residency, based on whether he or she complies with a Garda investigation. This merits further consideration. Some people have expressed concern that this could become a pull factor for illegal immigrants in that they would lie about being trafficked in order to get residency. The facts do not bear this out, however. I note the remarks by Kathleen Fahy, the director of Ruhama — an organisation which is dealing with victims of sex trafficking and prostitution — that this was not its experience. She said the victims they encounter are not making up their stories.
There is a major role for An Garda Síochána in raising awareness of human trafficking. Training is ongoing but more needs to be done to develop policies in this area. The subtlety with which a member of An Garda Síochána listens to someone's story and looks for evidence of trafficking is crucial in order to raise the victim's plight. Training in awareness needs to be given a much more forensic focus so that we can rely more upon the ability of those in the frontline to detect signs of trafficking and address them on the ground. The reports from NGOs state that we can improve our act in this regard.
I wish to draw attention to two issues. The first concerns inspecting premises used to house people who are waiting for their immigration cases to be determined. We need better inspections to detect the signs of human trafficking. The second point concerns the website established across Europe. In Ireland's case it is blueblindfold.gov.ie, which is a tangible initiative to assist members of the public, victims, NGOs and others to focus clearly on the matter. I commend Fine Gael on tabling the motion. Good work is being done by the Government but as circumstances change economically, socially and legislatively we need to up our act and be at the cutting edge of the European response to this issue.
I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution to this very important debate and I thank Deputy O'Rourke for sharing time with her colleagues.
I compliment the Fine Gael Party and specifically Deputy Denis Naughten on this motion. I acknowledge the interest the Deputy has shown in this subject over a long period and congratulate him on his work. I also congratulate him on his election as an international council member of the Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa, the organisation that supports parliaments in Africa, of which the Leas-Chathaoirleach is a vice chairman. Deputy Naughten will bring great experience to this role. This is relevant to this debate because it demonstrates his interest in the subject.
I acknowledge the point Deputy Mary White made on Women's Aid's 12-day initiative. I thank the organisation for making contact with me and my colleagues. I will certainly be happy to support the initiative and attend the organisation's function next week.
Deputy Ciaran Cuffe referred to the representations made by various organisations. Individuals in my constituency of Dublin South-West have contacted me also. The interest shown in this motion is to be commended.
The National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings in Ireland 2009-2012 was published in June 2009 and it was developed under four main headings: prevention and awareness raising; the prosecution of traffickers; the protection of victims; and combatting child trafficking. The Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, whose presence in the Chamber I welcome, will have much to say in his contribution in this regard. The action plan provides the blueprint for the State's response to the issue. It records the comprehensive programme of legislation and policy development, the enforcement actions completed and the initiatives that are and will be undertaken.
I took the opportunity last night to listen to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister of State, Deputy John Curran. I was glad to note their interest in this issue. At a time when the political agenda is dominated by one subject, it is good, effective and important for the Parliament to continue to deal with issues that are of concern to people. Human trafficking is of concern to groups and individuals outside this House. I am glad we have been able to continue to focus on it even though we are all preoccupied with other issues.
A wide range of training and awareness-raising initiatives has been launched and more are planned. I am told that, since last year, more than 130 people from various Departments and agencies have participated in awareness training. This was provided by the International Organisation for Migration, with an input from the NGOs, the Garda, the National Immigration Bureau and the anti-human trafficking unit. In excess of 60 National Employment Rights Authority inspectors were among the participants. I am told other participants included Private Security Authority inspectors and representatives of the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Social and Family Affairs.
A number of training courses are being finalised in conjunction with the International Organisation for Migration and are to be rolled out to personnel from a number of Government organisations before the end of 2009. The courses are designed for training officers in organisations that give in-service training to all staff members. They include a module on human trafficking as part of the in-service training day. Two of the courses, I am told, will be held before the end of the year, one later this month and one in December.
An information seminar was provided in February 2009 to approximately 40 diplomats in the Department of Foreign Affairs who are being posted abroad to a variety of missions, including in Africa and Asia. These diplomats deal with businesses, visa applications and education agencies. A similar seminar was provided in March 2009 to staff in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment who are responsible for the examination and granting of work permits. I compliment the Minister and the Ministers of State on their initiatives in this regard. I encourage them to continue with this work and to resource the initiatives.
I thank Deputy O'Rourke for sharing time and giving me the opportunity to speak on the motion. I commend Deputy Naughten on tabling the motion and giving us an opportunity to discuss this subject in the House. I mean this most sincerely.
The trafficking of humans violently attacks one of our basic human rights, which right we should enjoy at all times. We are very lucky to live in a developed western democracy that respects such rights but some people living among us do not have them. Therefore, we must do all we can to eradicate human trafficking once and for all. No human being deserves to be treated as a commodity. Every one of us has dignity and we must all work together to ensure that those who engage in trafficking will face the full rigour of the law.
Last night, I heard the Minister elaborate on the National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings in Ireland 2009-2012, published in June 2009. It has four main principles: prevention and awareness raising; protecting victims; the prosecution of those engaged in trafficking; and dealing with the trafficking of children.
I, too, commend Women's Aid on its dedication to addressing and commitment to women's issues. It is important that it continues the good work it started and prioritises in political debate issues such as violence against women, the trafficking of women and children and the protection of victims.
I commend Ruhama, the Dublin-based NGO that works specifically with women involved in prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation, including women who are victims of sex trafficking. For many such women, fear is a considerable factor. They fear they might not be believed and that there is nobody to listen to their story. I am thankful that Ruhama offers tremendous support to those women and has a proven track record.
Ruhama is Hebrew for "renewed life". Ruhama rightly regards prostitution as violence against women and a violation of women's rights. It provides very important supports to victims.
I do not often get the opportunity to watch television but last Sunday evening I watched the final episode of "The Clinic", which I must confess is one of my favourite dramas. It depicted the circumstances of a lady who found herself in great difficulty with regard to trafficking and prostitution. It depicted very clearly her inhumane treatment. She was a victim, lived in fear for her life and was running scared from place to place looking for somebody to listen to her story and assist her. Her story certainly mirrored what can happen, even in a country known as "the Isle of Saints and Scholars". The events described can certainly happen here in any town or village.
It is very important that the Government continues to address this issue and that we continue to make people aware that it is an offence to sell, offer for sale, purchase, or offer to purchase, any person for any purpose. We must send out a very clear message that one can face a penalty of up to life in prison for engaging in such a practice, and rightly so.
Reference was made to the anti-human trafficking unit and the manner in which it works closely with the Government, the non-governmental agencies and the international organisations. It is very important to have a co-ordinated and joined-up approach to this issue rather than having the HSE do one thing and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the Department of Social and Family Affairs do another. We need them all working together. It is very important that members of An Garda Síochána continue to receive training.
As a mother of three children, I believe the most disgusting act of all is child sexual exploitation. I am glad legislation is being prepared to introduce even more severe penalties for people who solicit children.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak this evening and I wish the Minister well in his endeavours to tighten up the legislation to protect all victims of human trafficking.
I wish to share my time with Deputies Byrne, Breen, Reilly, O'Mahony and Kehoe.
In the short time that is available to me I wish to focus on unaccompanied children. There are shocking statistics on the number of unaccompanied children who have come to this country, many of whom have disappeared. A total of 503 vulnerable children have gone missing in State care since 2000, yet not a finger has been lifted to do anything about it. This year alone, 36 children have gone missing from State care. The Trafficking in Persons report indicated that the Government reported that a small number of missing children had been found in involuntary servitude in brothels, restaurants and domestic care. We are all shocked by such information. It is unacceptable that children in State care have been found in such situations.
The separated children's unit of the Health Service Executive revealed that 12 children stated they were trafficked into this country between 2000 and 2008 but it admitted that more than that number were trafficked for sex exploitation. In 2007 and 2008, a total of 26 Chinese children were taken into care, all of whom disappeared almost immediately. One can ask where those children are. Such children are vulnerable because of their young age. When doing my research, Madeleine McCann, the high profile missing child came to mind. Because her parents are constantly agitating they ensure her name remains in the media. However, in this country 26 Chinese children have gone missing, among many others. It is important that we focus in the debate on those statistics and realise what is going on right under our noses.
Accommodation for unaccompanied children seeking asylum varies in standard. In many cases it has been criticised and could do with improvement. Children aged between 12 and 16 go to one of two registered children's homes. Children aged less than 12 years should be taken into foster care. It is open to question whether that is the case. Foster homes are not inspected by HIQA as they are operated by non-statutory services. Riversdale House in Palmerstown is one of the two children's homes which was the subject of attention in the report, Trafficking in Persons. The report outlined that the size, layout and suitability of the premises for the purpose and function of the centre caused much discussion and debate throughout the inspection with all the relevant parties in agreement that it was not desirable to have 23 young people aged between 12 and 16 living together. The reason given for lack of alternative facilities was funding restrictions and lack of clarity as to which Department has full responsibility for separated children, the Department of Health and Children through the Health Service Executive or the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. That fact has been mentioned previously. The inspection found that the current provision is inadequate, as it does not provide sufficient care and protection for those vulnerable children.
In the time remaining I wish to focus on the lack of staff in the facilities, the quality of care and the fact that young boys and girls were mixed when they should have been in separate corridors. No supervision was in place. No response was made to two serious allegations about child protection concerns during the night. In the three years since the Riversdale home opened, a number of young people have gone missing. At the time of inspection nine of them were found elsewhere in the country or in the United Kingdom. Those were young people aged between 12 and 16 in the care of the State. That is another sad indictment of the child care services in the State. It behoves us all to address the issue and to recognise that young people in the care of the State are not receiving adequate care and attention.
I support Deputy Naughten's motion this evening. I am appalled at the extent to which human trafficking has grown in the European Union, especially in this country. During the Celtic tiger years this country attracted many immigrants from around the world. We broadly welcomed them. Many workers from China, Poland and Africa demonstrated a great work ethic and without them this country would not have done as well. However, there is always a downside and that came in the form of human trafficking. Unscrupulous criminals saw a new wealth in this country and targeted it as a new hub for the sex trade in western Europe.
Recent statistics tell us that up to 75% of 1,000 women involved in indoor prostitution in this country at any given time are immigrants. In 2007 and 2008 a minimum of 102 women and girls were clearly identified as having been sex trafficked. Many of those women are, in effect, prisoners in the dark and murky world of prostitution. They have little hope of escaping from the people who trafficked them into this country to make money. Even if they manage to escape they are terrified of bringing themselves to the attention of the authorities as they are undocumented and could face deportation. There is no protection for those women and children and without being able to approach the authorities for help there is no hope of apprehending the traffickers and bringing them to justice.
Incredibly the Government response to tackling this problem has been slow and lacks conviction. Last year's introduction of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act gave us hope that the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform was getting real about this serious problem. Among other measures it created separate offences, including that of traffic in children and adults for the purpose of their labour or sex exploitation. That was a welcome step in the right direction. However, we cannot address the problem with a criminal law response alone; we are dealing human beings — women and children — many of whom are traumatised by the ordeal of being tricked into coming to a strange country and then forced into working in prostitution.
We need to put the victims of trafficking in a suitable sanctuary and remove them from those situations in which they are most vulnerable. I support Deputy Naughten's assertion that the housing of trafficking victims by the Reception and Integration Agency, RIA, is not the correct course of action. That is the wrong place for victims. It is vital to put in place a specific service, including safe and secure accommodation to help victims of trafficking to deal with the trauma they have endured. Organisations such as Ruhama, the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Migrant Rights Centre do great work to help women in difficult situations but that cannot be sustained in the long term.
Furthermore, the authorities need to seriously address the problem of unaccompanied minors, many of whom end up being drawn into the sex trade and subjected to abuse and violence. We have seen cases of children disappearing from care. We must do more to prevent them from being manipulated or coerced into prostitution. It was reported during the summer that the Garda was investigating 65 cases of suspected trafficking into the State for exploitation. A total of 14 of those cases involved children. It is clear that our duty of care for those children and their well-being has become obscure and cannot be allowed to continue.
Alongside the issue of trafficking and forced labour another serious trend which has developed in our towns and cities is the increase in massage parlours and brothels. Just last week it was reported that at least 90 massage parlours in Dublin, which are essentially brothels, were advertising on the Internet and in newspapers via mobile telephone numbers. They operate independently of legitimate businesses who run their business from a proper premises with a landline. Those Chinese, eastern European and African massage parlours are advertising openly and being run on a prolific basis across the city.
It is painfully clear that we urgently need to review the prostitution laws in this country. That is why Fine Gael has repeatedly called on the Government to establish a high level group to review and examine the prostitution laws with a view to preventing the increase of sex trafficking. We must give those who have been victimised and trafficked their lives back and help them achieve some sort of normality if it is not already too late.
I commend my colleague, Deputy Naughten, on bringing this important motion before the House. Trafficking in human beings is one of the greatest infringements of a person's human rights. It is modern slave trading. The United Nations estimates that over 2.4 million people are trafficked worldwide, mainly for sexual exploitation.
International policing of human trafficking has proved difficult as it is done in a secretive fashion, and people are often afraid to speak out. The victims of human trafficking are lured in by underground criminals when they arrive in a country like Ireland and find they have no jobs. As they are in a strange country, they become dependent on the trafficker. They do not know anybody else and their illegal status gives the trafficker the upper hand.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will be aware of the case in his constituency in 2001 when eight Turkish refugees lost their lives coming to Ireland. They had to endure a 53 hour journey in a packed freighter container on a ferry from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge. Thankfully, the members of the smuggling gang responsible for the crime were brought to justice and jailed in Belgium. That was a sad case of a family caught up in human trafficking.
All of us were shocked recently when we watched the RTE "Prime Time Investigates" programme which investigated human trafficking. We listened to the many harrowing stories of young women who were lured to Ireland and forced to work in the sex trade. I recall the story of one girl, Maria, who was a Romanian immigrant. It told of how she arrived in Paris and got a flight to Cork. When she arrived in Cork she was brutally beaten, forced to work in a brothel in south Dublin and threatened that she would be killed if she did not do what she was told by her pimp. All that poor girl wanted was a better life. That is all these people want, but unfortunately they do not get a better life. There are many more stories like Maria's and they are all too familiar.
An NUI Galway report published in 2007 found that at least 76 victims were trafficked into Ireland for the sex trade here between 2000 and 2006. Following a recent seminar on the subject, both the Immigrant Council of Ireland and the Irish Human Rights Commission joined forces to appeal to the Irish Government to ratify the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking immediately. Ireland is one of 21 member states of the Council of Europe which has not ratified the convention since 2005, when the convention was first adopted by the Council of Europe. The Council has been to the forefront in highlighting this issue. I have been a member of the Council of Europe and it has been very much to the fore in regard to the rights of human beings.
Forty children who were in the care of this State have gone missing in the past eight months, and 36 of the children are still missing, a point to which Deputy Clune referred. Those statistics speak for themselves. Since 2000, some 503 children in HSE accommodation have gone missing. A total of 411 of those children are still missing and it is suspected that many of them are victims of human trafficking.
There is an urgency about the matter. We owe it to those children and the hundreds of others who face the threat here that this country is not seen as a safe haven for those criminals who prey on vulnerable children. The Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, should explain to the House the reason Ireland has not signed up to that convention. As my colleague, Deputy Naughten, said last night, it is important that we clamp down on the potential exploitation and abuse being perpetrated in this jurisdiction. The full rigours of the law should apply to those criminals who are involved in prostitution.
The Minister of State should review the accommodation arrangements for victims who have the courage to speak out. Placing those victims in asylum centres is not ideal because often they do not remain in the country and they refuse to testify against their abusers.
We need to send a strong message from this House that we will not tolerate human trafficking in this country and that anybody convicted here will face the full rigours of the law. That is extremely important. There should be no hiding place in this country for criminals involved in prostitution.
I congratulate Deputy Naughten on bringing forward this motion to address the current weaknesses in the approach to trafficking, which is facilitating the development of the slave and sex trade in Ireland. It is generally seen that Ireland is a haven for the sex and slave trade. The illegal sex industry here is reckoned to be worth €180 million a year, with an estimated 1,000 men paying for sex every day.
Human trafficking is the fuel that keeps prostitution on the road as evidenced by the fact that 97% of the 1,000 women involved in indoor prostitution are migrants, and that 90% of potential human trafficking victims are being investigated on the basis of sexual exploitation, some involving minors. We have already heard from Deputy Pat Breen and Deputy Deirdre Clune about the number of minors who have gone missing from the care of the HSE, which, against this background, is very disturbing.
The Fianna Fail Government's attempts to tackle sex trafficking have been at best piecemeal and insufficient. We must now put a comprehensive strategy in place to deal with the proliferation of sex trafficking into this country. Criminal elements are exploiting the lack of regulation of the legitimate massage industry to provide cover for brothels which are trafficking women into Ireland. The reality is that many of these brothels are using the guise of complementary therapy to promote their business, and many have been known to openly advertise some of their services. As a result of complete inaction by the Government and the Minister for Health and Children, there has been a proliferation in the number of these parlours with media reports showing that the number of brothels has doubled in one year, with 90 in Dublin alone. Gardaí believe that these establishments are centrally organised and most of the women in them are victims of human trafficking, are reported to be suffering miserable lives and are often subject to abuse by their traffickers. We know the violence and the fear those women have suffered from the programmes we have seen on television.
The lack of regulation is driving the trafficking industry, which continues to see women forced into this country to work in the sex industry. I will allude to that later in my contribution. Many come here expecting an entirely different life. They are duped into this situation by people who are evil, and that is the only word to describe them.
We need to strengthen the regulatory environment for complementary therapists, including massage therapy, as much for that industry's own good as anything else. The working group had its first meeting in May 2003 which I understand comprised representatives of the main therapy groups, a consumer representative, representatives from the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Education and Science. The report of the working group was published in 2006 and called for the "development of a robust system of voluntary self-regulation" for this industry, yet nothing has happened in the intervening years.
The failure by the Department of Health and Children to implement the recommendations of its own working group on the regulation of the legitimate massage therapy industry is providing a legitimate cover for many brothels to operate and exploit vulnerable migrant women. That sends out a clear message to international criminals that Ireland continues to be a soft touch in this regard.
Considering the seriousness of this situation we must now consider the role that statutory regulation can play to help phase out this criminal activity. Statutory regulation is a system whereby each individual member of a profession is recognised by a specified body as competent to practice within that sphere of activity under a formal mechanism that is provided for by law. Unlike systems of voluntary regulation, it is a legally binding process — all persons wishing to practice must be registered and can be prosecuted for practising if not registered.
There is no reason a body such as HIQA or some other could not be resourced to oversee the alternative medicine area and massage parlours, regulate the people who work in those areas and validate their activities. We have been campaigning for greater protection for victims of human trafficking who are invariably being held in a form of modern slavery. They are subject to violence, abuse, rape and run the long-term health risk of sexually transmitted diseases. That is all the more sad when we consider that many of them were duped into coming here with a promise of a very different life.
This is a serious matter of public safety and public health. It is critically important that we have transparency in all complementary and medical therapies to ensure that we protect patients, avoid confusion and stop the criminal elements that are exploiting the absence of regulation. We must protect the vulnerable in society regardless of whether they are our citizens.
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate and commend Deputy Naughten for putting it before the House. It is easy for us to forget and ignore the rights of the most vulnerable in our society, those who never get a chance to live a normal existence, either in their country of origin or their country of destination. They have been exploited, deceived and taken advantage of by criminals from start to finish. They find themselves in many cases treated as criminals when in fact they are victims who need protection rather than conviction.
Anyone who watched "The Clinic" on Sunday night saw a good example in dramatic and graphic terms of how sex trafficking is a criminal business run by those with little regard for human life, never mind human dignity. The passing of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and the Government's anti-human trafficking tracking plan have been acknowledged as steps in the right direction. The key to their success will be how they are enforced and the support services that must be put in place for the victims of sexual exploitation. That is what the motion is about.
A major obstacle to the implementation of the legislation is identifying the victims of trafficking. That issue has been dealt with by Deputy Naughten and others. I want to talk about those who are being accommodated once they have been identified as victims. At present they are placed in asylum centres during the recovery and reflection period. There is one such centre in my constituency in Mayo and although I have no evidence there are any such victims placed there at the moment, the reality is that this is how victims are being accommodated under the legislation. It is imperative that accommodation for asylum seekers and refugees must be separated from the victims of sex trafficking. There is an asylum issue but the primary issue is the exploitation that takes place.
I have seen figures from the Galway Rape Crisis Centre, where 20% of the reported rape and abuse cases are made by asylum seekers. This confirms the need to protect these people and keep them away from asylum centres once they are identified. This is the only way further exploitation will not take place because these women are vulnerable and in poor financial circumstances.
I was reading a British report on this problem and it gave an idea of how this happens. A young woman was trafficked to Britain at age 15, placed in hostel accommodation and then in shared housing with other young women, none of whom spoke the same language. She was swiftly traced by her trafficker, who forced her back into prostitution and prevented her from attending college or finding a normal job.
The trafficking victims should be housed by groups with the necessary training, skills and support services, such as the Sonas housing initiative, which currently offers support to victims of domestic violence. Sonas has cared for two victims of trafficking in recent times but they were directed to Sonas by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, not by the State. If the victims feel safe and secure, they are more likely to cooperate with the gardaí, which will help to solve the problem and hopefully lead to the conviction and imprisonment of the traffickers.
The Minister outlined last night the support services available to victims. The difficulty is that Deputy Naughten's motion outlines the major difficulty with the use of the asylum centres as the setting for these services. These victims must get away from the places where many of them got involved in prostitution in the first place. Many European countries, including Britain, have passed legislation clamping down on prostitution. If we do not act now, the problem will increase in our country instead of being brought under control. I strongly support the motion.
I also commend Deputy Naughten for tabling this motion and for his constant efforts on behalf of immigrants to this country, highlighting the difficulties they face, their efforts to integrate and the injustices they suffer.
Being from Wexford, I have a particular interest in this motion, arising from the unfortunate fact that Rosslare Port seems to play a prominent role in the trafficking of people into this country. I have no doubt that the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as a Wexford man, is well aware of the problems faced in Rosslare Port.
It is now two years since an undercover reporter with the BBC exposed Rosslare Port as being the preferred route for traffickers from eastern European countries to gain access to Ireland and Britain. This was a stark admission that sent a shiver down the spine of many of my constituents.
Unfortunately, however, it has not sparked any action from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the Minister. Rosslare was identified as having some of the most lax controls of any of the early points of entry and there has been little or no improvement in controls or specific measures to address the situation in the intervening period. I ask the Minister for increased procedures and controls at Rosslare Port and a greater Garda presence to curtail the trafficking that is taking place through the port.
The gardaí in County Wexford have uncovered two prostitution rings in the past six months, reportedly involving people from eastern Europe. There is a definite link between the prostitution rings in County Wexford and our proximity to Rosslare Port, I have no doubt this is the case. In my town, Enniscorthy, there have been two prostitution rings uncovered in the last year. The situation at Rosslare Port must be addressed as soon as possible. Human trafficking is the third most lucrative crime after arms and drug trafficking so the same resources must be invested in tackling this crime if we are to stop it.
The statistics are there for all to see. A minimum of 102 women and girls have been clearly identified in the recent report on sex trafficking in Ireland, with 11 children identified. Up to 97% of the women involved in indoor prostitution in Ireland at any given time are migrant women.
These are alarming statistics. In spite of 153 investigations into alleged trafficking, and 73 potential victims identified by gardaí, there have been no convictions. This is a damning statistic for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. The Government should also be ashamed by the recent condemnation by the US State Department in its report on human trafficking, which stated that the Government of Ireland does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. This is a terrible reflection on this country in the 21st century, that we cannot comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Lest we forget, human trafficking for sexual exploitation is a modern form of slavery. I call on Fianna Fáil Members to support this motion. If they had any interest or real feeling, they would support it.
We must do our utmost to improve the protection of victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation. We must send out a clear message that Ireland intends to stand firm on this matter and will not be an easy option when it comes to human trafficking. Our motion outlines a number of areas where improvements can be made to address this ever-growing and disturbing crime.
I call on the Minister of State and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to look at Rosslare Port and the amount of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation that has taken place there. This is a huge problem in County Wexford because we are in the south east. More controls should be put in place to stop this forthwith.
I join with his Fine Gael colleagues in complimenting Deputy Naughten on his tenacity and responsibility in bringing this matter regularly to the attention of the political system. It is to the credit of everybody in the House when politicians act in this responsible manner.
I want, first of all, to replace some of the assertions being made in the House over the past two days with some factual content about this issue. Deputy Costello alleged Garda inaction on brothels and massage parlours and this was repeated earlier on this evening. I just want to put on the record of the House the comments of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern last night, who informed the Dáil that, for example, on 2 and 6 November two searches were carried out in Dublin as regards massage parlours. In both incidents two females were found on the property. There was a connection between the females and Irish nationals. However, no evidence of human trafficking was disclosed.
It is also wrong to assert Government inaction in this area and again I want to put on the record the fact that the Government, over the last 18 months in particular, has taken a strident line in this regard — more so than some of our EU colleagues. On the point made by Opposition Deputies that Ireland has been identified as a target for the human trafficking of children and adults, for sexual exploitation, labour and other nefarious purposes, the Government, for that reason has very much upped the ante, in terms of a national action plan. There is the anti-human trafficking unit in the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the anti-human trafficking unit in the Garda as well as the Criminal Justice (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which provides life imprisonment for some of the offences set out in the legislation. Again, that is in advance of some other EU sentencing norms in this area. While I absolutely concede there is a problem in this area and admit we can have no cause for complacency or sitting back as regards a legislative system designed to deal with these issues, I believe the Government, the Garda and indeed the HSE are entitled to some credit for the progress they have made in the last while.
Some comment has been made as regards children and I want to deal with that as well. Under the implementation plan published by the Government following the Ryan report, we committed to ensuring that HIQA would carry out the inspections required under the regulations of private and voluntary residential centres from 2010. This is a significant departure, and already two hostels for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum have been closed, and properly so. We wish to ensure that the others are closed as well. It should be noted that unaccompanied children under 12 are not placed in residential care, rather in foster care. It must also be noted that the HSE, as the responsible authority, does not have the powers to place these children in detention or put them under lock and key in any way. Many of the high number of incidents of missing children are attributed internationally, among all our EU colleagues, to family reunification. This needs to be put in context. I do not mean to suggest that human trafficking is not an issue. It is a very serious issue, but we cannot extrapolate from the missing children figures a corresponding statistic as regards child trafficking for sexual exploitation or labour. These exist, and I do not deny it for a moment.
It is important, too, to note that this year the HSE and the Garda published a joint protocol as regards how they will deal with the issue of missing children. This is perhaps beginning to bear fruit. Certainly, in October 2009 no child went missing from HSE care. I do not say that as a proud boast. It should, of course, be the norm, a given, but nonetheless that is the case and it may well be attributable to the higher state of awareness surrounding this issue. Again, I compliment Deputy Naughten on his role in ensuring this.
The Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, pointed out last night that the Government has taken a firm stand against human trafficking. He said the State is working as diligently as possible in this area. Finally, in response to Deputy Breen's question on the issue of ratification of the Council of Europe Convention, I can inform the House this instrument will be ratified in early 2010. I commend the Government amendment to the House.
I would like to share time with Deputies Ulick Burke and Denis Naughten, with the permission of the House.
I join with my colleagues in commending Deputy Naughten on his persistent and tireless pursuit of the issues associated with the protection of children, in particular, and the dignity and human rights which are very much deserved and should be to the fore in terms of Government policy as regards immigrants, particularly vulnerable young women who are being trafficked illegally into this country.
It is quite clear there is minimal protection for the victims of human trafficking, notwithstanding the legislation introduced in 2008. A significant number of cases of trafficking have been identified this year, 46 so far, I believe, yet only ten such victims were granted the rest and reflection period guaranteed by the Government in accordance with European guidelines. This is very important. I spoke on that Bill when it came before the House in late 2007 and this is one of the key issues identified by the Opposition, including the Fine Gael spokesman and the many speakers on Second Stage of the Bill. It is also worth highlighting that there have been no prosecutions on the trafficking of young girls, in particular, in that interval. Once again, this points to the fact that we can write all the legislation we like and put it on the Statute Book, but without implementation and adequate resources to ensure prosecutions are secured and that people responsible for this type of criminal activity are put behind bars, we really are at nothing, and the entire fanfare with which the Government brought forward the legislation is worthless. If the legislation is not implemented and people are not being held to account, there is no point in having it in the first place.
I have made the point in this House in the past that we need to remember victims of trafficking are just that. They are not simply illegal immigrants or people who are evading or defrauding the system. They are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves from the type of criminals into whose hands they fall. It is particularly noteworthy that Ireland is more susceptible to the type of human trafficking we now see in this country than other jurisdictions because we have open borders and this is an island. There is a very grave risk that Ireland will become a hotspot for trafficking and we know what that will lead to.
A significant challenge exists, to acknowledge the fact these people are genuinely victims of an illegal activity, and as such, require the protection of the State. Deputy Naughten has pointed on countless occasions to the reality of young people going missing from State care, which is a major concern I share. The figures have already been referred to in this debate and are quite startling. More than 500 vulnerable children in the care of the State have gone missing since 2000 and the majority, it would appear, have still to be accounted for.
I accept the Minister of State is trying to put the debate into context but to suggest this is largely due to family reunification is to give the wrong impression and I do not know whether it is helpful to this debate. It is quite clear from the 2009 report on trafficking in persons that a significant number have been found engaged in prostitution, in brothels and the type of activities one does not wish to see. If the attitude of the Government is to skirt over this fundamental fact, then we have a problem.
I thank Deputies Creighton and Naughten for sharing time. Most people who listened to the debate last night and this evening will have heard many speakers from the Government side making the point that the Government has taken a firm stand against trafficking in human beings by putting in place a wide range of legislative and administrative measures in respect of prevention, protection and prosecution. Both the Minister of State tonight and his senior Minister last night have taken issue with the fact that the State is doing little to tackle this most serious human rights issue and the measures being taken are not the correct ones. It has been stated that the unit that has been established includes more than 50 Government, non-governmental, national and international agencies to co-ordinate a comprehensive holistic, whole Government response to the issue of trafficking. When tackling a problem, would a child in the country choose to co-ordinate together 50 units to get a response to a serious issue? The fact that so many agencies are involved indicates this is merely paying lip-service to a serious problem.
The Minister of State should take up one issue this evening. I refer to the ease with which one can advertise the number and availability of adult entertainment establishments, such as lap dance clubs in local newspapers, some national newspapers and glossy magazines. Such businesses are fuelling demand for sex workers and therefore, indirectly, for sex trafficking. Therefore, it is important that the Government should take a stand on a simple issue by calling in the editors of all these magazines, which are clearly identifiable, to ask them once and for all to stop this commercial activity of advertising through their media. While this is a small issue, with the greatest of respect it could be far more effective than much of the work of the 50 other agencies that are meant to be co-ordinating an effort to eliminate or reduce human trafficking at present.
I will provide an example that horrified me today. I refer to statistics from the Escort Ireland website's Irish escort review, which stated there were 15,169 Irish escort reviews, or field reports, currently available on Escort Ireland. The encounters involved cost the Irish clients a total of €4,282,000 per annum and the average cost to the Irish client per encounter cost €282.
The Deputy has one minute.
In that minute, I wish to draw attention to what is appearing on local media. A more localised Escort Ireland page states:
Irish Escorts: Galway coming soon touring escorts. Touring escort girls due to arrive in Ireland within the next three days! ... Arriving in Galway on Friday 20 November 2009. Sorry, we currently have no escort arriving in Galway on this date.
They may be arriving on Saturday 21.
Similarly, I wish to draw attention to the advertisement on the Callouts Galway website today. It states:
Callouts Galway is a luxury escort agency based in Galway city in the west of Ireland. We provide upper class gentleman in Galway and all over Ireland, a variety of escorts to meet their greatest desires, and fulfil their wildest fantasies. Callouts Galway offers both incall and outcall services in Galway, Ireland but as our escort agency name suggests we specialise in outcall services in county Galway. Our incall service is located in Galway city centre and is in a luxury and discrete [sic] apartment with a great choice of escorts and secure car parking. All of the girls who work for the callouts Galway agency have been chosen for their beauty, intelligence and [fantasy].
While this may sound funny, if a media organ of any kind can push this out in public, the Government and the Minister is failing. This would be an easy way to knock the terrible disgrace of making it available. I ask the Minister of State and the Garda to move quickly on an easy way to respond to this problem.
First, I thank the Fine Gael party for giving me the opportunity to table this motion. I also wish to thank the contributors from all sides of the House who contributed to this debate last night and this evening. I listened with interest last night to the Minister's contribution and heard about the promises of action and about future reports and promised legislation. Sadly, what is needed is action now because Ireland's asylum system is a soft touch for human traffickers. Ireland's asylum system for both adults and children is being exploited by criminal gangs who are using it to groom women for the sex industry and as holding pens for child traffickers. This fact is backed up by the official figures from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform on suspected victims of human trafficking, which show the Government believes that 70% of all the potential victims are either children in HSE care or asylum seekers. The position on the ground is very different to the impression given in the Chamber by the Minister last night. Instead of addressing the issue, Government policy is fuelling the existing problem.
I wish to refute the Minister's perfect image of Reception and Integration Agency, RIA, accommodation. While it is difficult to gain access to them, I have visited some of these centres as a public representative. I have met people in such centres, many of whom are clinically depressed. They must wait for weeks, months and years for a decision from the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. There are reports from NGOs on the victims of trafficking that refer to the distress they are going through, such as an inability to eat food, the lack of privacy in such centres, everyone knowing their business, no personal space and being obliged to share rooms with at least three other strangers. Such people cannot sleep at night and cannot even cry. The hostels are known to traffickers as easy places for prey as they contain many vulnerable women in a single location.
I refer to the disgraceful treatment of separated children. No words can exist to describe adequately the horror of the trafficking of children for sexual or labour exploitation. The Minister did not include in his speech that up to the end of August this year, the HSE hostels have lost five children every single month, all bar four of whom are still missing. Some of them have not even made it on to the Garda missing persons website. In April 2008, the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy Brian Lenihan, told me he intended to raise this issue with the Health Service Executive. The Minister of State told me in this Chamber in February 2009 that the issue has attracted a high level of concentration on the part of the Government. Previously this evening, the Minister of State stated that one cannot draw a connection between the missing children and trafficking. However, based on his own Department's figures, one in five——
I did not say that. It is important to put on the record that this is not what I said.
The Minister of State questioned it. The Department's own figures show that one in five of the potential victims of trafficking are minors, some of whom have come through the hostel system. These are the Department's own figures in respect of this issue. When I raised this issue with the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform last week to ascertain what discussions had taken place with the HSE, it transpired that nothing has taken place.
In April 2008, when the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, was Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, he said that he would examine the prostitution laws here in the context of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill. When Deputy James Bannon raised that issue in the House last week, the Taoiseach said the legislation was forthcoming next year but the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform did not mention a word about it last night during the debate, not a dicky bird.
Norway was forced to take action when the prostitution industry moved across the border from Sweden following the criminalisation of the purchase of sexual services. The United Kingdom is tightening its laws on prostitution. Next year, the Scottish Parliament will consider criminalising outright the purchase of sexual activities. We cannot allow Ireland to become the new red light district for the United Kingdom or any other part of Europe. Instead, let us work with our colleagues in Scotland, Norway and Sweden and outlaw this industry once and for all and send out a clear message. I commend the motion to the House.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 71; Níl, 67.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Andrews, Barry.
- Andrews, Chris.
- Ardagh, Seán.
- Aylward, Bobby.
- Behan, Joe.
- Blaney, Niall.
- Brady, Áine.
- Brady, Cyprian.
- Brady, Johnny.
- Browne, John.
- Calleary, Dara.
- Carey, Pat.
- Collins, Niall.
- Conlon, Margaret.
- Connick, Seán.
- Coughlan, Mary.
- Cregan, John.
- Cuffe, Ciarán.
- Curran, John.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- Dooley, Timmy.
- Fahey, Frank.
- Finneran, Michael.
- Fitzpatrick, Michael.
- Fleming, Seán.
- Flynn, Beverley.
- Gogarty, Paul.
- Grealish, Noel.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Healy-Rae, Jackie.
- Hoctor, Máire.
- Kelly, Peter.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Kennedy, Michael.
- Kitt, Michael P.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Lenihan, Conor.
- Lowry, Michael.
- McEllistrim, Thomas.
- McGrath, Mattie.
- McGrath, Michael.
- McGuinness, John.
- Martin, Micheál.
- Moloney, John.
- Moynihan, Michael.
- Mulcahy, Michael.
- Nolan, M. J.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
- O’Brien, Darragh.
- O’Connor, Charlie.
- O’Dea, Willie.
- O’Donoghue, John.
- O’Flynn, Noel.
- O’Hanlon, Rory.
- O’Keeffe, Batt.
- O’Rourke, Mary.
- O’Sullivan, Christy.
- Power, Peter.
- Power, Seán.
- Ryan, Eamon.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wallace, Mary.
- White, Mary Alexandra.
- Woods, Michael.
- Allen, Bernard.
- Bannon, James.
- Breen, Pat.
- Broughan, Thomas P.
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Ulick.
- Byrne, Catherine.
- Carey, Joe.
- Clune, Deirdre.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Costello, Joe.
- Coveney, Simon.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Creed, Michael.
- Creighton, Lucinda.
- D’Arcy, Michael.
- Deasy, John.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Doyle, Andrew.
- Durkan, Bernard J.
- Feighan, Frank.
- Ferris, Martin.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Flanagan, Terence.
- Gilmore, Eamon.
- Hayes, Brian.
- Hayes, Tom.
- Higgins, Michael D.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kehoe, Paul.
- Kenny, Enda.
- Lee, George.
- Lynch, Ciarán.
- Lynch, Kathleen.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McEntee, Shane.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McHugh, Joe.
- McManus, Liz.
- Mitchell, Olivia.
- Naughten, Denis.
- Neville, Dan.
- Noonan, Michael.
- Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
- Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
- O’Donnell, Kieran.
- O’Dowd, Fergus.
- O’Keeffe, Jim.
- O’Mahony, John.
- O’Shea, Brian.
- O’Sullivan, Jan.
- Penrose, Willie.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Reilly, James.
- Ring, Michael.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sheahan, Tom.
- Sheehan, P. J.
- Sherlock, Seán.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Stanton, David.
- Tuffy, Joanna.
- Upton, Mary.
- Varadkar, Leo.
- Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared carried.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
As a teller and under Standing Orders——
——I would just like to wish Ireland the best of luck tonight in Paris.