Dáil Éireann - Volume 658 - 03 July, 2008

Written Answers. - Human Trafficking.

Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of children granted temporary stay on the grounds of their having been trafficked; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26349/08]

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: Any child, who presents to an Immigration Officer and is unaccompanied or in the company of a person whom the Immigration Officer is not satisfied to be their guardian or have lawful custody of the said child is dealt with in accordance with section 8(5) of the Refugee Act 1996 as amended, which states:

Where it appears to an Immigration Officer or an authorised officer that a child under the age of 18 years who has either arrived at the frontiers of the State or has entered the State, is not in the custody of any person, the officer shall, as soon as practicable, so inform the Health Board in whose functional area the child is and thereupon the provisions of the Child Care Act, 1991 shall apply in relation to the child.

The Health Service Executive, acting in loco parentis, can make application to my Department for humanitarian leave for a child to remain in the State. Alternatively, the child, also through the Health Service Executive, may make application for asylum to the Refugee Applications Commissioner. Under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, which came into force on 7 June 2008, my Department has introduced administrative immigration arrangements for the protection of victims of human trafficking. To date, no minors have been dealt with by the Garda Síochána under these new procedures.

[789] Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of trafficked children in education and training programmes, in particular, those attending secondary school; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26351/08]

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: I am advised by the Department of Education and Science that children under the age of 18 can attend primary and post-primary schools. Data is available on the nationality of students in post-primary schools. There are over 160 nationalities represented in post-primary schools in 2007-08. Such data is not available for primary schools. There is no data available that would identify children who are trafficked. The Department of Education and Science does not seek such data from schools. Schools do not seek to categorise students. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 which came into force from 7 June 2008 creates an offence of recruiting, transporting, transferring to another person, harbouring or causing the entry into, travel within or departure from the State of an adult or child for the specific purpose of the trafficked person’s sexual or labour exploitation or removal of his or her organs. The Act also makes it an offence to sell or offer for sale or to purchase or offer to purchase any person for any purpose. Penalties of up to life imprisonment apply in respect of these offences. In the context of this legislation work has commenced, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, on developing a data strategy to capture, amongst other things, details of services availed of by victims of human trafficking as defined in the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008. This Data Strategy is part of the co-ordinated, comprehensive and holistic response to human trafficking under way in my Department.

Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the number of trafficked children receiving legal aid; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26352/08]

  Deputy Dermot Ahern: Legal aid may be granted in criminal or civil cases. Criminal legal aid is granted to persons charged before the Courts. The Criminal Justice (Legal Aid) Act 1962 provides that free legal aid may be granted, in certain circumstances, for the defence of persons of insufficient means in criminal proceedings. The legislation does not distinguish between adults and children. Consequently, where a child is the defendant in a criminal case s/he is entitled to seek legal aid under the provisions of the above mentioned legislation. However, it is highly unlikely that a child would be charged with human trafficking. Furthermore, criminal legal aid does not arise in the case of victims. My Department has no involvement in the day-to-day running of the Scheme, the granting of legal aid or assignment of lawyers. These matters are handled entirely by the courts. The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 which came into force from 7 June 2008 creates an offence of recruiting, transporting, transferring to another person, harbouring or causing 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. The Act also makes it an offence to sell or offer for sale or to purchase or offer to purchase any person for any purpose. Penalties of up to life imprisonment apply in respect of these offences. The question of legal and other forms of assistance, for both adult and children victims of human trafficking as defined by the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, is being examined as part of the co-ordinated, comprehensive and holistic anti-human trafficking strategy being developed in my Department.