Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Wednesday, 29 Mar 2000

Vol. 1 No. 1

Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999: Committee Stage.

I welcome the Minister and his officials. It is proposed to adjourn today's meeting shortly before 4.00 p.m. due to the ongoing debate in the Dáil on the Children's Bill, 1999, and the holding of other meetings in this room and to resume consideration of the Bill tomorrow at 10.00 a.m. Is that agreed? Agreed.

It is proposed to group amendments for the purposes of debate in line with the information given to Members.

I understand the links between amendments, but they all deserve to stand alone. We know decisions on the amendments will be made separately, but in terms of the debate we should focus on each amendment. It would be more expeditious to deal with them seriatim. We can cover the principles expeditiously, but I would prefer to take them seriatim to focus on the net impact of definitions and so on.

Normally I would have no difficulty with that, but we have prepared our responses on the basis of the groupings.

Will the Minister accept the request?

We will interpret it generously.


Amendment No. 1 is in the name of Deputy Howlin. Amendment No. 2 is an alternative and amendments Nos. 3, 4, 8 and amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 8 are related. Therefore, we will discuss amendments Nos. 1 to 4, inclusive, amendment No. 8 and amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 8 together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 10, after "non-national" to insert "other than a person who claims or intends to claim asylum".

A number of issues of principle are encompassed in this group of amendments. The objective of amendment No. 1 is to exclude asylum seekers from the definition of "illegal immigrant". The Minister obviously intends doing the exact opposite, from what I can discern from his amendment.

Amendment No. 3 seeks to insert a new subsection which would state that for the purposes of subsection (1) "a non-national shall not be deemed to enter or seek to enter the State unlawfully solely by reason of his or her possession or use of a false travel or identity document acquired in the reasonable belief that such possession or use was necessary to avoid persecution". The idea is that a person escaping from persecution may require in some instances the possession of a document which might be counterfeit or false. That of itself should not render the holder of the document illegal under the definition in the Bill. A person becomes an illegal immigrant if he or she enters the State unlawfully. My amendment is designed so that the term "unlawfully" does not cover a genuine asylum seeker who needs to use a false or unlawful document to get out of a country where his or her life or liberty may be in peril. This is required if we are to conform to the principles of justice we have espoused and our obligations under international law.

Amendment No. 4 also proposes the insertion of a new subsection which would state that "for the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that for the purposes of subsection (1), a non-national shall not be deemed to enter or seek to enter the State unlawfully where he or she claims or intends to claim asylum on arrival at the frontier of the State". The Minister should not have a difficulty with this amendment which is designed merely to declare that a person is not an illegal immigrant under the definition in the Bill if he or she claims asylum at the frontier of the State.

In previous debates the Minister repeatedly reassured me that it would never be his intention that a non-national arriving in the State who declares the wish to seek asylum would be prevented from having that claim tested. If the Minister rejects the amendment it will cast doubt on the intention of the entire Bill as genuine asylum seekers would be stopped at the port of entry. The amendment is much narrower than amendment No. 1 in that the definition of non-national would exclude a person who intends to claim asylum. This is a narrower focus but has the same objective. The Minister's amendment seems to run counter to this entire approach.

Amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 8 is also in my name. Amendment No. 8 in the name of the Minister seeks to insert a new definition. The objective of my amendment to the Minister's amendment is to insert after "asylum", "otherwise than in a lawful or bona fide manner". The Minister's amendment is an attack on the internationally recognised right of asylum. Is he suggesting a person who for reward helps a bona fide asylum seeker should be classified as a criminal and subject to the penalties outlined in the Bill, namely, up to ten years imprisonment? In other words, to aid and assist in an act which is lawful in itself could be an unlawful act with an extremely draconian penalty attached to it. I look forward to an explanation of the Minister's intentions in this regard. It would be zero tolerance gone mad if a person who aided another to do something which is lawful would be committing an offence. The amendment to the Minister's amendment would limit this to illegal immigrants or asylum seekers who are not lawful and bona fide. In other words, it would be an offence to traffic in people, but not to assist bona fide asylum seekers.

The principles in the amendments I am proposing are very straightforward. There is a consensus in the House in relation to the Minister's announced objective which is to ensure the unacceptable trafficking in people for profit should be outlawed and that those involved should be punished. However, in fulfilling that objective, which attracts broad support, we must not put up barriers to genuine asylum seekers or penalise humanitarian organisations or individuals who may assist people escaping genuine persecution. Getting that balance right is the task we have set ourselves. The amendments in my name will improve the Bill to that end.

I support the broad thrust and spirit of what Deputy Howlin said on his amendments. On amendment No. 2 in my name, section 1(1) defines "illegal immigrant" to mean "a non-national who enters or seeks to enter or has entered the State unlawfully". My amendment seeks to insert the words "other than a presumptive refugee" after the words "non-national". I did not concoct the term "presumptive refugee", it is an internationally accepted term.

The category "asylum seeker" is ambiguous in that it includes some people who will ultimately be recognised as refugees, some whose claims will be rejected and others who will be given a residence permit, even if they are not being formally granted refugee status. Until their claims have been examined, all asylum seekers must be considered as presumptive refugees. They are consequently protected by the principle of non-refoulement, which forbids states from returning people to countries where they might be at risk of persecution. The term “presumptive refugee” has its source in The State of the World’s Refugees, a UNHCR document from 1997.

I support Deputy Howlin's amendment No. 3, which proposes that "a non-national shall not be deemed to enter or seek to enter the State unlawfully solely by reason of his or her possession or use of false travel or identity documents acquired in the reasonable belief that such possession or use was necessary to avoid persecution". It must be accepted that in situations where life and limb are under threat, a person has an entitlement to do anything necessary to escape from tyranny. In such cases, people find themselves in the impossible position of being unable to obtain legal valid documentation. If that means having recourse to documentation which is not valid, legal or genuine, then so be it if the explicit bona fide purpose of the documentation is to escape from such tyrannical situations or persecution and to make one's exit to a more humane regime. This amendment should be accepted on the basis that it seeks to insert a human element into the Bill, which has been condemned by many for lacking a human, compassionate touch. The reality is that people will have recourse to false documentation to make good their escape and they cannot be faulted for that.

Amendment No. 4 in the name of Deputy Howlin provides for the insertion of the following subsection (2) in page 3, between lines 15 and 16:

For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that for the purposes of subsection (1), a non-national shall not be deemed to enter or seek to enter the State unlawfully where he or she claims or intends to claim asylum on arrival at the frontier of the State.

I concur with the concern expressed by Deputy Howlin. There is an international obligation on us to allow due process to everybody who arrives on our shores and seeks entry, even if they do not come within the category of people who can be genuinely regarded as having gone through the legal process laid down for refugees. They are entitled to have their initial application, appeals process and judicial review dealt with as a matter of constitutional right. I hope we will prevail on the Minister to agree that a constitutional right means that the law should be applied equally to all, citizens and non-citizens.

This is my first opportunity to meet with the committee in session since the Taoiseach appointed two former members, Deputies Hanafin and Eoin Ryan, to be Ministers of State and since Deputy Ardagh's appointment as chairman. I congratulate Deputy Ardagh on his appointment and wish him and the other new members of the committee, Deputies Coughlan and Wade, well. I thank all members of the committee for agreeing to consider this legislation today and tomorrow.

I wish to deal with the amendments in the names of Deputies Howlin and Jim Higgins and at the same time explain amendment No. 8 in my name. While it is not intended, the net effect of the Deputies' amendments would be to provide that trafficking in asylum seekers would not come within the scope of the Bill. The effect of the amendments would be that criminal organised groups which traffic in asylum seekers to the country would commit no offence. We all acknowledge that these traffickers can make large profits by exploiting loopholes in our laws and the vulnerability of asylum seekers. If I were to accept these amendments, I would effectively be condoning this behaviour and I realise the Deputies do not intend that. The thrust of the Bill is to criminalise the activities of such people, something on which we are all agreed.

In view of concerns raised on Second Stage regarding the precise scope of the Bill, the committee will recall that I undertook to consult with the parliamentary draftsman to ensure that the scope was broad enough to include the activities of profiteers who traffic in human beings, while excluding the activities of bona fide people who give assistance to non-nationals to come here, a point made by both Deputies Howlin and Higgins. I am also concerned that people who assist others in good faith will not be criminalised.

Amendment No. 11 in my name, which will be discussed later, will achieve the second part of this objective. However, I was advised to ensure that the Bill would cover the activities of those who traffic in asylum seekers for gain and that the Bill should explicitly provide for this. Accordingly, amendment No. 8 in my name clarifies that a trafficking offence includes trafficking in asylum seekers.

Deputies may be confused about the effect of the Bill, which is not surprising given its complexity. The Bill criminalises the activities of traffickers, including trafficking in asylum seekers, but provides that such criminalisation does not in any way affect the rights of individual asylum seekers, which Deputies are seeking to protect. In so far as the asylum seeker is concerned, the position regarding his or her admission to the State and the processing of his or her application will remain unchanged.

What regime would apply to an individual deemed to be an illegal immigrant under the definition section of the Bill in terms of the processing of his or her application for asylum here?

The fact that the individual arrives in the State and makes an application for asylum is not in any way affected by this legislation which is not intended to affect the position of an asylum seeker, rather the Bill seeks to criminalise the activities of traffickers. The asylum seeker will continue to be dealt with in accordance with all of the procedures and all of the rights appropriate under the current arrangements or under the Refugee Act, which we will bring into operation in the near future.

The activities of the traffickers come within the scope of the legislation. Amendment No. 11 in my name clarifies that the offence is committed only when the entry to the State of the illegal immigrant or asylum seeker is facilitated for gain. The offence will only catch profiteers. That is all I am seeking to do here. Those who act for humanitarian reasons - Deputy Howlin has referred to this - or because of family links and so on will not commit an offence under the legislation.

I accept it is not the intention, but Deputies Howlin and Higgins's amendments would ensure we could do nothing against profiteers. Accepting the amendments would render the Bill meaningless and, worse, would mean that this country condones the practice of trafficking in human beings, a practice both Deputies would condemn, which is recognised as a serious form of internationally organised crime and which we are being called on by a number of international bodies, including the European Union, to criminalise. I hope the Deputies will recognise why I cannot accept the amendments.

I accept the Deputies have legitimate concerns and wish to ensure that genuine asylum seekers will not be prevented under the Bill from reaching our shores. This is a view with which I sympathise, but letting traffickers off scot free is not the way to achieve this. My amendments to section 2 will deal in a more appropriate manner with the legitimate concerns expressed by the Deputies. Ensuring that those who are criminalised are people trafficking for profit will limit the scope of behaviour to be criminalised. In the circumstances, I ask the Deputies to support my amendment No. 8 and withdraw their amendments.

We need to focus on this matter. Deputy Higgins, the Minister and I have said we believe in the same thing, even if we have presented different ways of going about it. If we are ad idem in the objective, we should try to get a way forward which satisfies all of us in dealing with the issue. The Minister is saying it will be an offence to aid or assist an asylum seeker to come to this country because in the unamended definition an illegal immigrant will be an asylum seeker. Therefore, all those who seek asylum here will fall within the remit of illegal immigrant, subject to the penalties for assisting them outlined in the Bill, with the saver clause in amendment 11 which proposes that assisting them must be done for gain. Every carrier, such as airlines, and every boat that comes into Rosslare do not issue tickets free of charge, presumably they are in the business for gain. Will they then be subject to prosecution for aiding and assisting illegal immigration and how will that impact on the accessibility of the State to those who genuinely wish to flee persecution?

In terms of a clear definition, I would be happier if asylum seekers were exempted in this case. The reasonable position of the Minister is that if asylum seekers get blanket exemption exploitation of them might be permitted. While I support the thrust of the Bill in terms of its stated principle, in relation to the category of people the Minister has targeted, very few will ever be prosecuted. I have no evidence of organised gangs trafficking in human beings, despite many media comments of these gangs existing in the Republic of Ireland. If the Minister has contrary information I would like to hear about it. I have listened to self-appointed specialists such as Deputy Callely talk about his great knowledge of trafficking by taximen who bring swarms of people across the Border. However, I do not suppose the taximen of Dublin are to be the objective of the Minister's ten year penalty proposed in the Bill.

I have no evidence of an organised ring in Ireland. I suspect there are organised rings in continental Europe. Individuals who got on board trucks outside the Austrian borders found themselves in Ireland and some of them did not know where they were heading when they got on board those trucks. Will the Minister say how the Bill will impact on such people? I am fearful that, whatever the stated intention, the impact will be to ensure there is such a regime of terror in place for those who might aid and assist genuine asylum seekers that they will not risk it and people who are genuinely in peril might be barred from making genuine application for asylum here. I would like the Minister to tease out that general principle.

Section 2, which makes the position clear, must be considered in the context of what Deputy Howlin said. First, it states that a person who organises or knowingly facilitates the entry into the State of a person whom he or she knows or has reasonable cause to believe to be an illegal immigrant would be guilty of an offence. Therefore, it is not true to state that any individual who facilitates or organises innocently the trafficking of an individual into the State will be guilty of an offence. It is not an offence of strict liability; the mens rea must exist and this is set out in the legislation. To buttress that and because of concerns which were expressed on Second Stage by the main Opposition spokespersons in particular, I said to the parliamentary draftsman that I was concerned about the situation in relation to those who facilitate or organise the trafficking, as it were, of people into the State when those people are refugees in his or her view. Therefore, I have tabled amendment No. 11 to section 2 which provides that subsection (1) will not apply in respect of anything done by a person otherwise than for gain or anything done by a bona fide organisation. In other words, I am trying to ensure that——

A shipping company?

——where it is bona fide that person will be exempt under the legislation and not subject to criminalisation or criminal charges.

Deputy Howlin referred to carriers. I wish to say categorically that the legislation does not apply to carriers. It does not apply to aeroplanes or ships, it applies to profiteers who are trafficking illegal immigrants into the country for gain. Therefore, there could be no argument to suggest there would be a regime of terror, to use Deputy Howlin's phrase. That is not correct.

Where is the exemption for carriers?

There is no specification in the legislation in relation to carriers.

Section 3 refers to forfeiture of ships and so on.

Mr. O’Donoghue This relates to facilitating the entry into the State of a person who there is cause to believe is an illegal immigrant. In Britain there is liability for carriers at present. No strict liability is to be imposed on carriers arising out of this legislation.

Are they exempt?

They are exempt to the extent that regular carriers such as airlines and shipping lines are hardly going to be involved in trafficking people into the State for profit. They are involved in bringing passengers into the State but not in bringing illegal immigrants.

Where does the Minister think they come from?

Criminal gangs are involved in trafficking human beings into the State. Deputy Howlin may say they do not exist here but the law in this respect would apply to offences committed abroad. There is no doubt that the country is targeted by commercial traffickers in human beings. Over recent months I have listened to claims that the incidence of trafficking is overstated or that there is no evidence of its existence. However, the facts regarding what has been happening in recent times speak for themselves. Approximately 1,000 asylum seekers arrive here every month. They do not simply decide to come here. Common sense suggests that traffickers are at work organising and exploiting at least some of these people. When one considers that approximately half the asylum applicants here are coming from two countries, Nigeria and Romania, and that we now have the highest number of asylum seekers per annum from these countries in the European Union, common sense would say that there is a deliberate targeting of this country and a marketing strategy would appear to be in operation in those two countries.

Furthermore, on being interviewed on arrival in relation to their asylum claims, asylum seekers often say they paid large amounts of money to agents to arrange their journeys and in many cases were unaware of where they were going. One would have to bury one's head in the sand to maintain that there is little evidence of trafficking. There is also operational information available to the Garda about the pattern of trafficking through Northern Ireland, intelligence on suspected traffickers in this State and Garda information that large transfers of money back to the countries of origin are taking place. When Deputy Callely says there is trafficking he is not wide of the mark. All the evidence available to me suggests he is correct.

If I need to say more to convince Deputies of the organised criminal nature of this activity I can point to regular examples of professionally forged registration books and immigration stamps which are being found here and abroad. Furthermore, the Garda are investigating allegations that Irish passports are being obtained by persons taking on the identity of deceased Irish children. This gives an idea of the scale of the problem we are facing and which may not be very well known to the general public. This is a serious problem which places onerous and serious obligations on me, difficult as they may be at times.

Ordinary carriers in the course of their business are not included in the category of knowingly assisting illegal immigrants into the State. There is nothing for them to fear and I assure Deputy Howlin of that. The objective of the legislation is to target those people who are insidiously trafficking vulnerable and often very unfortunate human beings into the State for reward. I believe the legislation, as drafted, captures that objective.

Are we to tease out an issue to a conclusion or will we continue to talk around it?

I would prefer if you would come to a conclusion on the matter.

May I focus on the net issue because, in his response, the Minister has referred to sections which we have not yet reached. The Bill will affect someone aiding or assisting an illegal immigrant, under the definition which encompasses every asylum seeker. Whatever the Minister's intention, he cannot give the assurance he claims. It is clear that the Bill makes it an offence for a person to organise or - not "and" - knowingly facilitate the entry of a person whom he or she knows or has reasonable cause to believe to be an illegal immigrant. Knowingly to facilitate could include selling airline or ferry tickets. A group in traditional Roma outfits could reasonably be believed to be illegal immigrants. A person who sold them airline or ferry tickets would be guilty of an offence.

The Minister proposes saver clauses in amendment No. 11. This amendment exempts anything done by a person otherwise than for gain or by a bona fide organisation if the purposes of that organisation include giving assistance to persons seeking asylum. Airline or ferry fares are collected for gain. I do not see how any transport company could be excluded under either saver clause. Whatever the Minister's intention, I fear a subliminal text which threatens the possibility of prosecution and suggests that it would be best not to bring these people into the country. People might decide that for the avoidance of any difficulty, that might be the best line to take.

Can the Minister give clear assurances, not only of his intention but also of how he proposes to legislate to ensure that such fear would not manifest itself by closing our doors to all and sundry who might reasonably be discerned as illegal immigrants?

If I were legislating for airline or shipping companies to insist on the production of certain documents before allowing people to board, the argument could be made that I was introducing a form of strict carrier's liability.

Deputy Howlin has put forward the sensible example of a group of Roma gypsies who wish to board a plane. On an interpretation of reasonable grounds of belief, no court could hold any carrier responsible for knowingly organising their entry into the State on the basis that he knew or had reasonable cause to believe that the group were illegal immigrants. Such a conclusion, by any company, could amount to a form of racism. Because people belong to a given group, a carrying company cannot automatically be held reasonably to know they are illegal immigrants. That would be absolute nonsense.

The legislation makes it perfectly clear that if one were organising the entry into the State one would have to know or have reasonable cause to believe that the person or persons concerned were illegal immigrants. If one were knowingly facilitating entry, that knowledge would have to be within oneself. It is recognised international practice that carriers should not allow persons without valid passports and visas to board.

The common travel area is another matter. The majority of immigrants come from Nigeria and Romania and there are no direct flights between Ireland and Romania or Nigeria. Deputy Howlin is familiar with the Dublin Convention which stipulates that a person should make an application for asylum in the signatory state in which he or she first arrives. If he or she does not do so it is open to this State to send the person back to that country. It is very difficult to determine what port an individual arrived at because the majority will not tell. One cannot come to this country directly by ship or plane from Nigeria or Romania. Although the Dublin Convention was designed to ensure that a person would make an application at the point of first entry to a signatory state, we are now accepting more people under the terms of the Dublin Convention than we are sending back under the same convention.

Where are they coming from?

This is despite the fact that there are no direct flights from the two main immigrant countries. That is an extraordinary situation. What does it tell us?

Can the Minister explain it to us?

Clearly, the people concerned are arriving into a country or countries in the EU from where they are coming to this country. That is the only conclusion I can reach and anything else would be illogical.

The Minister has not addressed the net point. Despite his assurances in relation to carrier's liability, there is clear liability and an intention to punish in the Bill. Section 3 makes provision for the forfeiture of ships, aircraft or other vehicles. I apologise for ranging beyond the amendments we are discussing but these matters are interrelated to this extent. I would like to see the clear manifestation of the Minister's intent in the Bill. I do not see how he can give the assurances he has given. The terms "knowingly facilitates", "for gain" and "reasonable cause to believe to be an illegal immigrant" are quite clear.

If the Minister believes no carrier can be prosecuted for excluding someone because his race or nationality might cause the carrier to believe him to be an illegal immigrant, how can anyone be determined to be an illegal immigrant by a trafficker?

The definition of an illegal immigrant is the very subject of our argument. I have defined an illegal immigrant.

In a very broad nature.

An illegal immigrant is a non-national who enters or seeks to enter or has entered the State unlawfully. There may be confusion of terminology. What I mean by carrier's liability is not what Deputy Howlin means. By carrier's liability I mean an offence of strict liability. Deputy Howlin means liability involving mens rea. As far as I am concerned, carrier’s liability arises when a carrier is told that if he carries illegal immigrants he will be fined £2,000 and his vehicles may be confiscated. There are jurisdictions where that is the position.

Is that not possible under this Bill?

It is not possible under this Bill because it is not an offence of strict liability. A carrier must know, facilitate knowingly or have reasonable cause to have known. One cannot prosecute a company or individual on the basis of carrying illegal immigrants whether they knew or not.

There is a considerable amount of case law which sets down what these definitions are. Precedent has established what the situation is. This legislation does not relate to carrier's liability. Its object is to prosecute those people who are trafficking or organising trafficking knowingly or when they have reasonable cause to know. I have given Deputy Howlin the facts as I know them. There is cogent evidence that people are trafficking human beings into this country. I do not say they are not unfortunate and vulnerable human beings, quite the opposite. I accept that is the position in the vast majority of cases. However, ruthless gangs are involved in this traffic and I must criminalise it, whether it happens here or anywhere else.

We have had considerable discussion on section 2. However, we are discussing the amendments to section 1.

May I make a small fógra, as Con Houlihan used to say in The Irish Press, for fear I am attacked by Romanian airlines?

Fógra práinneach?

I am informed there is one weekly flight from Romania to Ireland. I stress that it is not causing a problem with regard to illegal immigration.

I support the thrust of the Bill and I have made this clear. Following meetings with the Irish Road Haulage Association, I support the attempt to clamp down on people who are making substantial profits by trading in human misery. We are concerned that the Bill criminalises the traffic as well as the traffickers. The Bill defines an illegal immigrant as a non-national who enters or seeks to enter or has entered the State unlawfully. A person cannot be described as illegal without due process. A person may enter the State unlawfully by availing of a lift, by paying money or as the victim of a subterfuge. To say that such a person is an illegal immigrant because he sought to enter the State unlawfully is unfair. The Bill defines someone as illegal before his application has been duly processed. That is my main worry.

A person who enters this country without a legitimate visa is an illegal immigrant, of which there are many. Americans must apply for a visa and if they remain for more than three months they will be in the State illegally. Many people do not realise that they are in the country illegally. Many came here on student visas and obtained employment following completion of their studies. An ordinary definition of an illegal immigrant is a person in the country without a legitimate visa, where required. Any person who enters without a visa, regardless of his or her intentions, is in the State illegally. I am not a lawyer but that is my simplistic definition of an illegal immigrant and it has absolutely nothing to do with asylum seekers. When a person buys an airline ticket it is not up to the ground hostess to determine whether he or she is coming here illegally.

The Minister said that is the situation.

He did not.

He did, in the context of access.

Deputy Howlin referred to making of a profit. Every airline in the world sells tickets to make a profit——

"For gain" is the phrase used.

At that rate no person would be able to travel.

That would be the case under the Minister's definition.

That would be farcical.

That is what we said.

The Minister indicated that that is not the situation; that it is not up to the ground hostess to decide if a person is trafficking in illegal immigrants.

That is what the Bill states.

It is not. If a person to whom an airline ticket is sold legitimately has a passport, he or she is entitled to board the aeroplane. In the context of the Bill "for gain" means trafficking in illegal immigrants for profit. That is my interpretation. This is the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Bill, 1999——

For gain.

If the situation were otherwise, no company in the world would be able to sell airline tickets.

That is my fear.

The matter must be seen in context.

While I do not want to get bogged down in terminology, to respond to Deputy Coughlan, prior to boarding a commercial aircraft a series of passport and visa inspections take place which, as we are all aware, can cause delays and frustration. It would be a miracle to be allowed board an aeroplane without a passport. What we are seeking, therefore, would not result in the closure of airlines on the grounds that every passenger would be suspected of being an illegal immigrant.

The aim of the Bill, which we all support, is to prevent criminals from gaining from trafficking in illegal immigrants. My difficulty with the Bill is that all immigrants are seen as illegal regardless of status. They are therefore seen in the same light as those engaged in trafficking. In keeping with our obligations and responsibilities under the various conventions dealing with asylum seekers, Deputies Higgins and Howlin are seeking to ensure a person's status is not placed in doubt until the various processes have been completed.

I do not know why the Minister is of the view that the proposed wording - "other than a person who claims or intends to claim asylum" or "other than a presumptive refugee" - would open the floodgates. What he is really saying is that many immigrants may be described as economic. The point that we are trying to make is that asylum seekers should be excluded from the definition.

The net issue is straightforward. I am not certain why I am at odds with the Minister who keeps telling me that he agrees with the principle. No matter what way one puts it - I may be slower than the Minister to grasp these things - the term "illegal immigrant" as defined in the section is a catch-all phrase whereby every undocumented person is in the country illegally. By definition therefore every asylum seeker is an illegal immigrant. Ipso facto if one helps an asylum seeker one could get ten years in jail.

The Minister has clarified the position in amendment No. 11.

He has not. Amendment No. 11 contains two exclusion clauses - "to anything done by a person otherwise than for gain" or "to anything done to assist a person seeking asylum by a person in the course of his or her employment by a bona fide organisation if the purposes of that organisation include giving assistance to persons seeking asylum.” I presume everybody is not Santa Claus and even bona fide organisations will require money for providing transportation. This provision therefore has draconian implications. I am seeking an assurance that, legally, this will not happen. That is the purpose of my amendments which seek to exclude genuine asylum seekers from the impact of the trafficking provision. While I accept the Minister has a strong point that if he were to exclude asylum seekers traffickers would also be excluded, can he meet my point in any way?

During the course of his conversation with Deputy Coughlan, Deputy Howlin seemed to suggest that not only was I trying to keep people out I was also trying to keep them in. It reminds me of the old Sinn Féin slogan in Eamon de Valera's time, "Put them in to get them out."

That is a Kerryism not to do it again from the Jackie Healy-Rae dictionary.

The Sinn Féin lads were in prison at the time——

I knew the story would go back to 1920.

——and the context was to elect them to get them out. It just shows that political parties think they are good at PR and slogans but they were not in it with Eamon and the lads. My point is that when we define an illegal immigrant in this legislation, we are defining a person as an illegal immigrant for the purposes of traffic. We are saying that if any person is involved in the trafficking of illegal immigrants, that person will be guilty of an offence. If I were to say that it will exclude asylum seekers, as suggested by Deputies Howlin and Higgins, I might as well not have the law at all because it would mean, in effect, that the law could be circumvented every time by a person saying they are an asylum seeker, not an illegal immigrant, and one could become an asylum seeker by applying for asylum. I might as well pack my tent now and head for the door if I accept that.

Or even the Minister's flotel?

I do not have any flotels yet. In those circumstances, I have to agree with Deputy Coughlan - that will not come as a surprise to anybody - because the definition I am applying here is only for the purposes of trafficking. I am not penalising anybody other than traffickers. A person will be defined——

What is a trafficker?

A person will be defined as an illegal immigrant in accordance with the legislation, but I am not imposing any fines or penalties on the person who is defined as an illegal immigrant in this legislation. I am defining an illegal immigrant for the purposes of penalising traffickers so that a person will be entitled, as always, to make his or her application for asylum and there will not be any penalty.

Asylum seekers are either refugees or illegal immigrants. All I am saying is that if a person trafficks illegal immigrants into the State, he or she will be guilty of an offence. For that purpose, I have a definition of "illegal immigrant" which, if it were otherwise, would mean that I might as well not be here at all, and since none of us believes we should not be here, we might now be able to move on to the next point.

Carriers' liability legislation, which Deputy Howlin is speaking about, creates an obligation on commercial carriers to do certain things. For example, it creates an obligation on them to ensure that an individual has a passport. It creates an obligation on them to ensure the person has a visa and if the carriers do not ensure that the person they are carrying has a visa or a passport, the offences will have strict liability and the carrier can be fined or there can be a forfeiture order in respect of the vehicle, aeroplane or ship. That is my understanding of carriers' liability. That is a separate matter.

Many states have two kinds of legislation. They have anti-trafficking measures directed against profiteers or racketeers, whatever one wants to call them, and they have other measures which are designed to encourage bona fide commercial carriers to carry out rudimentary documentation checks to ensure that the passengers they are carrying are acting in accordance with the law, in other words, that they have passports and/or visas.

If I were to accept the Deputies' amendments, it would obviously make sense for the traffickers to ensure that every person trafficked would apply for asylum, whether they wanted to or not and regardless of whether they had any remote claim of persecution. In those circumstances, as I said, I would have to lift my tent because it would simply mean that there could not be any prosecution under the legislation and we would have sat here pouring water into a sieve until such time as we made sure the sieve was completely empty. I do not think we should spend our time doing that; our time is far too valuable to go on with that kind of game. It is not a beach party, we all know that——

Thank God for small mercies.

——but if I change the legislation in the manner being suggested, we will be only wasting our time. I am concerned about one matter which Deputy Howlin raised, but that comes under amendment No. 11 as drafted. Deputy Howlin may have a point and I am thinking about that but I will defer to the Chairman's greater wisdom and agree to discuss that amendment when we come to it.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 10, after "non-national" to insert "other than a presumptive refugee".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 not moved.
Section 1 agreed to.

Amendment No. 5 is in the name of Deputy Howlin. Amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 11 are related so we will take Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 11 together, by agreement. We have already discussed these amendments so hopefully we will have a very short discussion on them.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 3, subsection (1) line 27, after "who" to insert "for reward".

This amendment would ensure that only economic traffickers are criminalised and not persons who help others for no reward. The Minister's amendment No. 11 seems to accept this point so I presume, on that particular principle, we might not have a disagreement. The objective of amendment No. 7 in my name is to ensure that a person does not become a criminal merely because he helps his wife, child or friend. As I read it, the Bill does not distinguish between an organised crime boss or a person who helps their own kith and kin to leave the country or enter Ireland. I hope that would be acceptable to the Minister.

On amendment No. 6 in my name, the Minister's amendment No. 11 addresses the issue Deputy Howlin and I seek to address by virtue of our amendments.

And amendment No. 11?

On Second Stage I indicated that I intended to examine further the scope of the offence of trafficking to be created by section 2. As I have already said, my intention was to ensure that the offence was broad enough to cover the activities of all profiteers who trafficked in human beings while at the same time excluding the activity of people who, for humanitarian or other bona fide reasons, give assistance to non-nationals to come to this State. In particular, Deputies will recall that a concern, which I share, was repeatedly expressed that the Oscar Schindlers of this world should come within the scope of the offence. Having examined the provision carefully in conjunction with the parliamentary draftsman, I am satisfied there is a lack of clarity as to the——

Oscar Schindler would have to be a member of Amnesty to be covered by this.

No, we will come to that. Having examined the provision carefully in conjunction with the parliamentary draftsman, I am satisfied there is a lack of clarity as to the scope of the offence of trafficking to be created by section 2. It is necessary to clarify that assistance given to asylum seekers is covered by the offence. My amendment to section 1 achieves this purpose, but it is only covered to the extent that such assistance is given for gain. The amendment I am now proposing would explicitly make this important clarification. Amendment No. 11 provides the important qualification that the offence is not committed if the assistance is not given for gain. For the avoidance of doubt, I am also explicitly providing in this amendment that assistance given to asylum seekers by employees of bona fide organisations whose purpose is to give such assistance, is also excluded from the scope of the section.

Deputies will see this is a generous approach, but one which sets the focus of the Bill firmly on the profit making of traffickers and ensures, beyond any doubt, that non-profit making activity is excluded. This amendment is the reassurance Deputies requested that the Oscar Schindlers of this world, or even family or friends, who give assistance for bona fide reasons, even if such assistance is misguided, will not come within the scope of the Bill. I believe this is the correct approach.

The purpose of amendment No. 5, tabled by Deputy Howlin, is to clarify that for the offence of trafficking to be committed, the assistance must be given for reward. This point is covered by my amendment No. 11, which achieves the same effect as the Deputy's amendment. Accordingly, I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Similarly, the purpose of amendment No. 6, tabled by Deputy Higgins, is to provide that organising or facilitating the entry into the State of an illegal immigrant for humanitarian reasons would not be regarded as trafficking. Assistance given for genuine humanitarian reasons should not be given for gain. Therefore, my amendment ensures such assistance is not an offence. Accordingly, I ask the Deputy to withdraw his amendment.

The effect of amendment No. 7, tabled by Deputy Howlin, is to provide that assistance given by a spouse, relative or friend in facilitating the unlawful entry into the State of a person would not be an offence under section 2. The amendment is very broad in its scope and would, in effect, render the section and the Act inoperable, particularly when one considers the difficulty of defining who may be regarded as a "friend" - that is a very difficult definition.

We can arrange counselling. Has the Minister no one to telephone?

It has been stated, wisely or unwisely, that it is impossible to define a fellow politician as a friend. However, having said that, I would not expect——

South Kerry is taking its toll on the Minister.

I have thousands of friends outside politics, as I am sure Deputy Howlin has.

Having said that, I would not expect a family member or friend would assist a person to enter the State for gain. Accordingly, I believe my amendment covers the scenario where assistance is given by a family member or friend to enter the State, so that such assistance would not be regarded as trafficking. I ask the Deputy to withdraw his amendment.

I said earlier that I have a slight concern about what would happen if a person were to become involved in trafficking a genuine refugee into the State for gain. That is the issue to which one might address oneself. However, to be honest, one cannot cover every eventuality, other than to say in general terms the legislation is geared against those who are involved in trafficking in illegal immigrants for gain. The purpose of this Bill is to prevent people making profit out of the misery of vulnerable and unfortunate people. That insidious form of trade must be condemned.

It looks as if we are ad idem on this.

I am not going to take great issue with the Minister in relation to his amendment, which I welcome. I accept what he said about the amendments I tabled. I think he has taken on board the spirit of them sufficiently well for me not to take issue with him. We will have an opportunity later to deal with the section per se when I will have something further to say.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 27, after "facilitates" to insert "other than for humanitarian reasons".

I welcome the Minister's amendment, which addresses the issue. The concern was that there would be no humanitarian exclusion. The Minister has obviously addressed the issue. I thank him for his amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 29, after "immigrant" to insert "or a person who intends to seek asylum".

I move amendment No. 1 to amendment No. 8:

In the second line of the amendment after "asylum" to insert "otherwise than in a lawful and bona fide manner”.

Amendment to amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 8 put and declared carried.

Amendments Nos. 9 and 10 may be taken together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 3, subsection (1)(a), line 33, after “both” to insert “or to 100 days community service”.

My reason for tabling this amendment goes back to an issue we debated on a previous occasion, which is the issue of financial penalties and prison sentences being the only options open to judges. Those unable to pay the financial penalty imposed often end up in prison for a relatively short period of time, with all the incumbent costs. Prisons are being clogged up by people who, in many cases, committed offences which were never deemed to be offences that would warrant imprisonment.

In handing down penalties in court, judges do not often take cognisance of their option to apply community service orders and so on. That is a far more positive and productive way to deal with an offender. In all legislation where penalties are set down we should insert a community service provision to remind judges of the existence of this useful and positive option. That is why I am seeking to have this inserted. I have never seen it in legislation, but it should be inserted as a specified penalty option for judges. This is the first opportunity I have had to do this.

In regard to amendment No. 10, the penalty of ten years is excessive. Deputy Howlin and I are seeking to halve that to five years, which would be a more practical penalty in the circumstances.

I support the amendment to reduce the suggested penalty in section 2(1)(b), which is that on conviction or indictment the penalty should be a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years. When one considers the normal penalties imposed by the courts for very serious crimes involving violence or drugs, a sentence of ten years for this defined crime seems too much. A maximum sentence of five years would be more appropriate, if one was to slot it into its rightful category in terms of offences which this House has created.

I am still extremely unhappy about the section, which will state, on acceptance of the Minister's amendment, that a person who organises or knowingly facilitates the entry into the State of a person whom he or she knows or has reasonable cause to believe to be an illegal immigrant or a person who is about to seek asylum shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable to a sentence of up to ten years imprisonment. That is still far to broad a canvas on which to impose a draconian penalty of ten years. If the Minister cannot agree with me on the phraseology of section 1(2), I hope at least he will agree that the offence would fit more comfortably into the category of offences which lead to a maximum penalty of five rather than ten years.

The question of imprisonment and people serving reduced sentences, to which Deputy Higgins referred, must be addressed by me. I outlined on numerous occasions that the objective of the prison building programme was to ensure that people serve their sentences. Therefore, people will serve their sentences in future.

The purpose of amendment No. 9 in Deputy Higgins's name is to provide that community service may be a sanction for the less serious offence of trafficking. In fact, the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act, 1983, does provide a power to the courts to make community service orders regarding convicted persons and Deputy Higgins will be glad to know that it will be open to the court to apply that power to a person convicted of an offence under this Act. Therefore, having convicted a person and, perhaps, fined them £1,500 or less, the court would be in a position to impose a community service order. Therefore, Deputy Higgins's amendment is unnecessary.

The purpose of amendment No. 10, which is in the names of Deputy Higgins and Deputy Howlin, is to reduce the maximum term of imprisonment which a court could impose following a conviction on indictment from ten years to five years.

The purpose of the Bill, it is worth repeating, is to deal with those who seek to exploit asylum seekers and other immigrants by engaging in the despicable trade of trafficking. This is a matter, as I indicated, which is of great concern not just here. On Second Stage I stated that the link between traffickers and organised crime has also been recognised at UN level and work is progressing on the negotiation of protocols and the draft UN convention on organised crime, which will deal with the smuggling and trafficking in human beings. Furthermore, the Heads of State or Governments of the EU at the European Council meeting at Tampere, Finland, in October 1999 considered the question of trafficking in human beings. The committee will recall that the Taoiseach attended that meeting. The European Council stated its determination to tackle at its source illegal immigration, especially by combating those who engage in trafficking and the economic exploitation of migrants, and urged adoption of legislation providing for severe sanctions against this serious crime. On the basis of a proposal by the Commission, it invited the Council of Ministers to adopt by the end of this year legislation to this end.

The European Council furthermore urged member states, together with Europol, to direct their efforts to detecting and dismantling the criminal networks involved. We can, therefore, anticipate that we will be in a position in the fairly near future of looking at the Bill, when enacted, and checking its conformity with EU legislation which will prescribe a common approach to the criminalisation and punishment of trafficking in human beings.

The effect of the amendments would be to reduce the maximum term of imprisonment which a court may impose following conviction on indictment from ten years to five years. Such a reduced maximum sentence would be insufficient to deal with the traffickers, who may be part of internationally organised criminal groups, and would not be in keeping with the international effort to detect and dismantle the criminal networks involved in trafficking in human beings. For this legislation to be effective against such groups we must provide for the possibility of tough penalties. Of course I would point out that the ten year maximum sentence which the court can impose is not mandatory and it would be open to the judge to impose a lesser sentence where the circumstances of the case so warrant. On the other hand accepting the amendments would mean that the judge, faced with the most exploitative and organised trafficker in human misery, would be restricted to imposing a maximum five year sentence. I feel sure that the Deputies would not wish to impose such a restriction on the courts and I would ask them to withdraw their amendments accordingly.

It is of interest that larceny, fraud, forgery, burglary and a series of related offences attract a maximum sentence of ten years in accordance with the Larceny Act, 1990, and I am of the view that the worst instances of trafficking in humans are commensurate with the worst instances of those crimes of dishonesty. I, again, stress the issue of intent, that is, mens rea. The person must intend to do it. It is not just a question of a person being involved in trafficking accidentally. We are talking here about people who are deliberately, insidiously becoming involved in this offence. I feel that the court should have the power to impose a sentence of up to ten years. However, I stress that, depending on the circumstances of the case, the court can impose a lesser sentence. If the court wants to impose a community service order if it is just a minor offence, in accordance with and in deference to the wishes of Deputy Higgins, that power is there also. I prefer to leave the discretion to the court.

I do not think the Minister was listening to my opening comments. I accept that, according to the 1983 Act, the option to which the Minister referred is open to the court. I am trying to reinforce in the minds of the judges the fact that there is such an option because many people will testify that too often penalty is by way of financial sanctions, which in some cases are simply not sustainable by the defendant because he or she does not have the financial means, or by way of the imposition of a prison sentence. The amendments illustrate to judges that this is not just a matter of one or other or a combination of both and that there is a useful third option available, which is productive, more cost effective and more enlightened, and which should be inserted in the Bill as an option. That is simply the purpose of this amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 10 not moved.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 4, lines 3 and 4, to delete subsection (2) and substitute the following:

"(2) Subsection (1) shall not apply——

(a) to anything done by a person otherwise than for gain, or

(b) to anything done to assist a person seeking asylum by a person in the course of his or her employment by a bona fide organisation if the purposes of that organisation included giving assistance to persons seeking asylum.

(3) Subsection (1) shall apply to acts done or omissions made outside, as well as to the acts done or omissions made, in the State.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 4, between lines 4 and 5, to insert the following subsection:

"(3) A common carrier shall not be deemed to have contravened subsection (1) solely by virtue of carrying a person who presents a document appearing to be a valid travel document or passport.”.

The Minister may tell me that the air companies will never be prosecuted but my legal advisers say that the Bill creates the potential for such prosecution. The Minister is a learned judicial personage in his own right, but he may at least listen to the arguments of those who practice in the courts and say that this is a possibility. The import of the amendment is to allow a defence to air companies, carriers or ferry companies that when they are shown what appears to be a valid passport, they should not be required to carry out any further checks. If they did not carry out such checks, they would not, hopefully, put their ships or aeroplanes at risk of confiscation. I am also reminded of another category of carrier, which is drivers of lorries or private vehicles. I seek the Minister's assurances that there will not be a passport check or detailed examination of documentation to ensure that anybody to whom they give a lift into the State is holding a valid document. This saver clause would help to allay the fears I have outlined.

Much of this comes back to our earlier discussion and the difference between the Deputy and myself as to what constitutes "carrier's liability". The Deputy's amendment seeks to limit the responsibility of a carrier to check the documentation of a passenger but while this would be relevant to carrier's liability legislation, it has no place in this Bill because it contains no provisions in this regard, which brings me back to the beginning.

Nor exclusions.

However, on Second Stage I indicated that I was consulting the Attorney General about details of a possible legislative approach to the introduction of carrier's liability as in other jurisdictions, for example, Great Britain. I understand that the fines are in the region of £2,000 sterling per passenger, which is high. I am still examining the matter but I will accept these proposals in this legislation. Section 2 creates a criminal offence - " a person who organises or knowingly facilitates the entry into the State of a person whom he or she knows or has reasonable cause to believe to be an illegal immigrant or a person who intends to seek asylum shall be guilty of an offence". It is clear that a person must have intentionally facilitated the entry of a person and must have known or had reasonable cause to believe that the person is an illegal immigrant or asylum seeker. Accordingly, the amendment is unnecessary. We have had the debate already. There is no point in me expanding, although I could.

The Minister has introduced a vignette of information whereby he may be bringing in carrier's liability legislation. When will it be published?

That is a question for the Order of Business.

We are actively examining the issue.

The Minister is arguing that he has no intention of doing something. He is in discussions with the Attorney General. Will carrier's liability be introduced in a Report Stage amendment?

I will respond in the fashion of the Taoiseach. It is in early stage of preparation.

Not early enough for Report Stage?

Not at this point.

The Minister is right that we have debated this. Will he give an assurance that this legislation does not apply to carriers? That is a simple question which requires a "yes" or "no" answer.

There is no "yes" and no" answer to this.

Airline carriers need to know.

For example, a person who is involved in trafficking could use an aeroplane or a ship to bring a person into the State. That must be clear. The pilot who might also be complicit with the trafficker might know that the people he is carrying are illegal immigrants. He might be described as a "carrier". If that individual is described as a "carrier", he is in breach of the legislation——

Are Aer Lingus, Ryanair and ferry companies included under this legislation?

If a carrier intentionally facilitates the entry into the State of an illegal immigrant this legislation covers him because he is trafficker.

Therefore, the Minister's comments are irrelevant.

They are not because my definition and the Deputy's definition of "carrier's liability" are different.

Let us be clear.

I am perfectly clear. My definition is one of strict liability. If, for example, an airline were obliged under legislation to check a visa or passport and it breached that obligation, it would be subject to carrier's liability. I am dealing with traffickers. The Deputy feels that some carriers are traffickers and vice versa.

No, I did not say that. That is flippant and wrong.

It reminds me of the recent comment of the German Chancellor, Mr. Schröder, when photographed with a Minister of the Austrian Government. He said that a family is always a group but a group is not always a family.

It was remiss of me not to welcome Deputy Barnes back to the committee and I do so now.

Thank you, Chairman, and I congratulate you on your appointment. With regard to carriers, the Minister referred to legislation in Great Britain which carries heavy penalties. Apart from his proposed legislation, which is at an early stage of development, will there be co-ordinated legislation at European level to cover this area? People can cross borders easily. Is that part of the discussion at European level? His legislation will be inhibited very much because it is not trans-national.

The Deputy's question is timely and relevant. The Council of Justice and Interior Ministers met last Monday in Brussels and it was an interesting meeting in terms of the issue of immigration. Commissioner Vitorino, who oversees this area, explained in trenchant terms that it was the Commission's intention to adopt a co-ordinated approach to address illegal immigration. He promised that the proposals would be brought before the Council of Ministers at the earliest possible date, although he did not envisage that a co-ordinated action would be in place before the middle of 2001 at the earliest.

This is relatively disappointing because one would prefer earlier co-ordinated action. However, the reality is that when, for example, Eurodac was planned it was agreed in December 1991 at The Hague to withhold the examination of fingerprinting. Nine years later Eurodac is still not in operation, even though it would obviously facilitate the exchange of fingerprints, for example, between signatory states to the Dublin Convention. As the Deputy will be aware, big bodies do, indeed, move slowly but, nonetheless, Commissioner Vitorino seemed committed to ensuring that there would be a co-ordinated response. I hope that also includes measures to try to ensure that states from which there is migration are assisted in terms of their development. The economies of such states are in tough shape and there is a need to assist them from that perspective. It is something I hope we will see as soon as possible. The Commission is addressing this issue in order to ascertain whether there can be a degree of co-ordination and harmonisation.

I support Deputy Howlin's request for clarification. What is the scope of this provision? It is obvious that we are not referring to the commissioning of aeroplanes which will land at Farranfore, Castlefinn or Dingle with a consignment of asylum seekers. If a person goes to Ryanair, Aer Lingus or a shipping company to buy a travel ticket and there is a doubt regarding the validity of his or her documentation, are staff obliged to turn back that person?

At present, they are not because there is no carriers' liability.

Is that according to this Bill?

According to this Bill, it would have to be done intentionally; one would have to intentionally bring in an illegal immigrant. If one does that, one is involved in trafficking within the definition of this legislation. Other European jurisdictions, including the United Kingdom, insist on having two separate approaches, one for traffickers and another for carriers and I fail to see why we should be any different. I appreciate what the Deputy is saying but my definition of carriers' liability relates to the checking of passports and visas and my definition of trafficking is where a person knowingly assists people into the State for reward. They are two separate offences, but a carrier can be a trafficker.

That is the most direct and honest answer given by the Minister. In effect, my fear is well-founded. When the Minister's amendment is accepted, under the new section, a person who knowingly facilitates entry into the State of a person for whom there is reasonable cause to believe is either an illegal immigrant or an asylum offender, will be guilty of an offence. The test will be whether the person is knowingly facilitated. Allowing a person on a plane is facilitating entry into the State.

It is the red card.

The legal advice available to me is that this may catch people. I have no difficulty with the Minister enacting carriers' liability legislation. However, it is our responsibility to make the law as clear as possible so there is no ambiguity, which could have serious consequences regarding this issue. If Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Irish Ferries etc. believe they may be subject to a serious penalty under this Act if they knowingly facilitate a person who is reasonably discerned to be an asylum seeker, they may erect serious defences which will have human rights implications. I want clarity on this net issue.

I am trying to be as honest as possible.

I welcome that.

The difficulty I have with Deputy Howlin's proposal is that there is no doubt that if a person knowingly traffics another person into the country, he or she is guilty of an offence. If it is done knowingly, irrespective of who it is done by, an offence has obviously been committed. Deputy Howlin's difficulty is that it might affect an airline in carrying out its business. It is not intended to affect airlines and legislation like this has been in place in Great Britain since approximately 1971. British Airways has not been convicted and none of its planes has been confiscated. I do not anticipate that Aer Lingus planes or BIM ships will be confiscated. This legislation is intended to apply to traffickers. I cannot say that people who knowingly bring others into the State will not be convicted, because they will under this legislation. We can play with words for the evening——

It is our job.

——but the net effect is the same. I am not bringing in carriers' liability legislation, which is separate. If I were, it would be an offence of strict liability. That is my understanding of carriers' liability and I have said that 15 times if I have said it once. I can do nothing if people choose to disagree.

The Select Committee adjourned at 3. 55 p.m.