Dáil Éireann - Volume 637 - 26 June, 2007

Written Answers. - Human Trafficking.

Deputy Richard Bruton asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the laws that apply here governing human trafficking; his views on whether the penalties are adequate and whether it provides a legal framework for protecting and rehabilitating those trafficked; and when he will ratify UN and Council of Europe conventions. [17089/07]

[542]   Deputy Brian Lenihan: Under current Irish criminal law it is an offence, punishable by up to life imprisonment, to traffic a person under 17 years of age, male or female, into, through or out of Ireland for the purpose of that person’s sexual exploitation. This is provided for in the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998. Under the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000, it is an offence for a person to organise or knowingly facilitate the entry into Ireland of another person whom that person knows or has reasonable cause to believe is an illegal immigrant. The penalty on conviction on indictment for this offence is a maximum of ten years imprisonment or an unlimited fine or both.

Legislation creating an offence of recruiting, transporting, transferring to another person, harbouring or knowingly arranging or facilitating the entry into, travel within or departure from the State of a person for the specific purpose of the trafficked person’s sexual or labour exploitation or removal of his or her organs is at present being drafted in the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel. It provides a penalty on conviction on indictment for the offence of a maximum of life imprisonment for the trafficking of a child under 18 years of age and a maximum of 14 years imprisonment for trafficking an adult.

The penalties provided for in the existing and proposed legislation are severe and show, I believe, our abhorrence to the crime of trafficking in persons. At present, victims of trafficking are dealt with on an administrative basis having regard to the particular circumstances of each case. It is recognised that victims of trafficking, who are often highly traumatised by their experiences, require care and protection. The relevant authorities are mindful of this fact when dealing with the victims of trafficking and approach such cases in a sympathetic and pragmatic manner.

In addition, it is intended that the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2007 will, upon enactment, provide a framework to deal with immigration related matters arising from the relevant protection provisions in the Council of Europe Convention on action against trafficking in persons. In particular, in the context of the treatment of victims, the Bill will allow for arrangements to be put in place whereby a victim of trafficking will be afforded an immediate period of recovery and reflection in the State and also, in circumstances where he or she wishes to participate in any criminal proceedings in the matter, a further period of residence in the State to enable him or her to do so.

On enactment of these pieces of legislation, which I am treating as an urgent priority within my Department, Ireland will be in a position to ratify the international instruments on trafficking in persons.