"Legislation around Human Trafficking needs Urgent Review" - Tóibín
The Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has called on the government to undertake a review of the legislation surrounding human trafficking offences, in order to identify any 'gaps' which may exist in the law. Speaking after the sentencing of two people convicted of human trafficking offences this week, Deputy Tóibín said:
"Aontú welcomes the sentencing in recent days of convicted human traffickers in Ireland. However the Government must not be complacent in fighting this most heinous of crimes. I wish to congratulate the Gardaí and all who were involved in bringing to justice these two women who were responsible for trafficking. Mullingar Circuit Criminal Court sentenced both women to over five years imprisonment for human trafficking offences. Despite the recent positive improvements in this area, there are a still a number of steps the government can take to ensure Ireland has zero-tolerance for these exploitative practices. For example the Government should undertake a review of all legislation relating to human trafficking, and identify any gaps which should be addressed by amendments or new legislation as quickly as possible. The government must also promote awareness of the issue of human trafficking amongst the public. This is a crucial step, as it will enable Irish citizens to be better able to spot and report situations of suspected trafficking".
Deputy Tóibín continued: “The 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report from the US State Department has this year ranked Ireland as a tier two watchlist country when it comes to human trafficking. I have raised this matter with the Minister for Justice, and she has written to me to say that she found it "very disappointing that the US State Department did not acknowledge the significant progress made by Ireland over the past 12 months" and that she anticipates that the work Ireland is doing will be reflected in the next report and that Ireland's ranking will be updated. While I appreciate the Minister's sentiment, I believe we need action more than talk".
"There must be no room for complacency on this important issue, as at the heart of every trafficking case is a victim, someone who is trapped often in a life of forced labour, controlling behaviour, and violence. The week’s sentencing is undoubtedly a positive development, but we in Aontú are calling on the Government to leave no stone unturned in making Ireland a zero-tolerance country for human trafficking", concluded Deputy Tóibín.
(See response from Minister Humphreys to Deputy Tóibín below)
For Written Answer on : 23/09/2021
Question Number(s): 312 Question Reference(s): 45816/21
Asked by: Peadar Tóibín T.D.
To ask the Minister for Justice the assessment her Department has made of Ireland being ranked as a tier two watchlist country in the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report (details supplied); the action she is taking to combat human trafficking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. (Details Supplied) (2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: https://www.state.gov/
Human trafficking is a heinous crime based on deception and exploitation of vulnerable people. Combatting it is, and will continue to be, a priority for this Government and over the past year we have introduced significant measures to combat trafficking, to create a more victim-centred approach to identifying and supporting victims and to raise awareness and provide training.
While it was very disappointing that the US State Department did not acknowledge the significant progress made by Ireland over the past 12 months as sufficient to upgrade our ranking in the latest ‘Trafficking in Persons’ Report, I am confident that the work we are doing should be reflected in the next TiPs report and that Ireland’s ranking should be upgraded accordingly.
I note that a number of key areas identified in the latest TiPs Report reflect the ongoing work that is, in some cases, already well-advanced, including:
- The recent approval by Government to revise the National Referral Mechanism to make it easier for victims of trafficking to come forward, be identified and access advice, accommodation and support;
- The drafting of a new National Action Plan on Human Trafficking;
- The development of training, through NGOs, targeting front line staff in industries such as hospitality, airline and shipping who may come into contact with trafficked persons;
- The work being undertaken to provide dedicated accommodation for female victims of sexual exploitation;
- The improvements being made to the Criminal Justice System to support victims through the implementation of Supporting A Victims Journey; - The running of a new awareness-raising campaign in partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to build on the success of previous campaigns:
- An increase in funding for supporting victims of crime generally and increased funding dedicated specifically to supporting victims of trafficking.
The latest report also highlighted that at the time of drafting there were no convictions for human trafficking in Ireland. In this regard it is important to highlight the significance of the recent convictions for human trafficking handed down by the Courts and to acknowledge the dedication of An Garda Síochána in investigating and tackling this hideous crime.
It was concerning that one of the factors given weight in this latest report was the continued reliance on an assessment made in an earlier TiPs report in relation to the fishing industry. This assessment was fully investigated by An Garda Síochána and no evidence was found to support the allegations of widespread human trafficking in the fishing industry. It is unclear why the State Department chose to place weight on one voice and not to take account of the balance of stakeholder assessment – including assessment by NGOs active in Ireland in tackling human trafficking – that these accusations are without foundation.
The allegations in that regard should be assessed also in the light of the High Court judgment in the case International Transport Workers' Federation v the Minister for Justice and Equality [2018 No. 5398 P] which referred, in refusing an application for an injunction on behalf of the International Transport Federation, inter alia, to 'the extent of reliance by the plaintiff on speculation and the reports of others without applying due process like procedures to those accounts'.
As the Deputy will be aware, Ireland has strong separation of powers and the courts are independent of Government. A High Court judgment cannot be dismissed as an expression of opinion amongst potentially many others, but – unless overturned on appeal – is a conclusive finding of law or fact.
I am hopeful that the State Department will look at this particular issue more objectively when assessing Ireland's ranking for the next TiPs Report.