Address to Seanad Éireann by Mr. Seán Kelly MEP

Tuesday, 30th April 2013

I welcome Mr. Seán Kelly, MEP. There are many aspects of his work that I would like to raise and commend him on. Perhaps I shall limit myself to crediting him for his work on the committee called Delegations for Relations with the United States. Senator Cummins mentioned the EU-US trade agreement and a number of Senators are following its progress. I also commend Mr. Kelly on his valuable contribution as rapporteur regarding the Commission’s proposals to reform the EU data protection rules and to examine how the continent can have uniformity and introduce one data protection law for one continent. I have read the proposals with great interest.

I was heartened to hear Mr. Kelly speak so passionately today, and earlier this year, about youth unemployment and the youth guarantee. As he will know, Ireland has the fourth highest rate of young people not in education, employment or training in the EU, also known as the NEET figure. He expressed the need to tackle the monumental toll that emigration is taking on young people today. I commend all that he has done to support the youth guarantee. I would be heartened to hear his opinion on the draft recommendations establishing the youth guarantee that were adopted by the Council last week. Does he feel that the measure goes far enough?

With regard to his work on the Industry, Research and Technology Committee and the Regional Committee on Data Protection in Europe, what role will the digital agenda play in Ireland’s recovery? I know that he has touched on the subject in some way.

Mr. Kelly raised the issue of data protection and talked about the importance of balancing rights. Therefore, I wish to raise a people protection issue. Perhaps it is more of a child protection issue but we have discussed it in the House. I refer to child abuse material on the Internet which is an issue of considerable concern to myself and several Senators. As a State we have an obligation to protect real children from real abuse in the real world. The Independent group tabled a motion on 29 February 2012 that called on the Government to block all child abuse material, irrespective of its jurisdiction or origin. At present we block material from within Ireland but it should be blocked, irrespective of jurisdiction. The Minster for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, said that he would consider the proposal in the context of the planned sexual offences Bill. However, there has been no urgency in bringing the Bill before us so I look to the EU to see what it can do. Several member states have introduced such blocking of the Internet.

I note and acknowledge the European Parliament’s written declaration on highlighting the global dimension of the fight against online child sexual abuse content. I thank Mr. Kelly for signing the declaration earlier this month. As noted in the declaration, the cross-border nature of most online child sexual abuse content shows that strong international co-operation is necessary. What does Mr. Kelly feel can be done to facilitate this co-operation to remove the content at source and address its online distribution networks? I believe that we should block it but some people will counter my belief by citing Internet freedom. However, each digital image is an image of a crime scene. We have a policy to block drugs entering the country. It does not solve the problem but acts as a deterrent. In the same way we should block all child abuse in Ireland as happens in several EU member states. I would welcome hearing Mr. Kelly’s opinions and I hope that he will support me on the issue.

Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013: Second Stage

Wednesday, 24th April 2013

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The Bill will transpose some important provisions of the EU anti-trafficking directive into domestic legislation, which is very much welcome. I thank the Minister of State for outlining the Bill’s contents.

I welcome the inclusion of a definition of “forced labour” based on the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 29 of 1930 concerning forced or compulsory labour. I called for a clear definition of “forced labour” last November in the context of the shocking exploitation and forced labour of Muhammad Younis when we debated in the House Senator Quinn’s Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2012. The Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland, MRCI, has called for a definition of “forced labour” in domestic law for many years. I welcome members of the centre to the House. They are present in the Visitors Gallery and they are accompanied by a number of survivors of forced labour in Ireland. They are the human faces of the laws we debate and their presence instills in me a sense of my responsibility and our collective responsibility to ensure the law protecting victims of forced labour is as robust as possible. I seek an assurance that the definition of “forced labour”, as intended by the ILO convention and as understood in international jurisprudence with respect to offering oneself voluntarily, means fully informed and free consent throughout the worker’s service period. It is my understanding that in a number of forced labour cases dealt with by the MRCI, the victim could be said to have offered himself or herself voluntarily and the features defining forced labour came into play thereafter. That is why I stress the need for an assurance from the Minister of State about that understanding of the definition.

I also thank the Immigration Council of Ireland, ICI, which helped me to examine a number of the gaps in the legislation. A number of outstanding issues need to be addressed to give full effect to the EU directive. These do not necessarily need to be dealt with through this Bill or primary legislation but I reserve my right to table amendments on Committee Stage because I received a copy of the Bill only last week and I am still trying to work my way through it. Many of the issues I would like addressed can be dealt with through policy or other primary legislation but they are covered by the EU directive and I would like us to uphold it in full.

The directive specifically highlights the gender dimension of the crime and requires countries to adopt a gender specific perspective in provision of support and assistance to victims and in prevention work but this seems to have been ignored. We need to provide gender neutral accommodation and services in direct provision centres, for example.

My second concern also relates to direct provision and I have pursued this issued via Adjournment matters, as the Minister of State will be aware. I feel at times, including yesterday, that inappropriate road blocks are put in my way but I will not be deterred. In addition to the overall gender specific approach to service and assistance contained in article 1, the directive also covers appropriate and safe accommodation and assistance. The current policy to secure accommodation and material assistance through the system of direct provision is controversial. Senator Bradford has raised several issues in this regard and it is perceived as inappropriate by many. We need to address these issues. I have asked for a debate on directive provision in the House.

Third, it is unclear what is the policy on provision of support and assistance to victims following criminal proceedings. Specifying a commitment in that regard would be in line with the relevant provision of the directive. Fourth, can the issue of victims of trafficking with special needs be addressed through policy or additional primary legislation? The EU directive obliges states “To attend to victims with special needs where those needs derive from pregnancy, health issues, disability, mental disorder or a serious form of psychological, physical or sexual violence they have suffered”.

In that regard, it is noted that the existing administrative arrangements only provide for the granting of a temporary resident permit on condition of co-operation with the authorities. Considerations of any of the listed special needs that I have outlined are absent, so I would like to know how we will uphold that part of the EU directive.

The identification of victims of trafficking is currently extended to a limited category of victims and appears to be an opaque and unlimited process. Even though the authorised personnel are trained and familiar with international guidelines for the identification of victims, no structure has been agreed for this process, including the number of interviews, minimum criteria and time limits, to give effect to the directive’s provisions for early identification. This is in addition to the problem that the vast number of victims remain ineligible for the identification procedure.

The EU directive obliges the State to ensure that victims have access to counselling without delay and, in accordance with the role of victims in the criminal justice system, to legal representation, including for the purpose of compensation. Victims in Ireland currently have access to legal counselling provided by the legal aid board by referral from the Garda National Immigration Bureau. However, access to legal representation has to be considered in full, in my opinion. For example, not all victims of trafficking would meet the eligibility criteria for legal aid in the State, including for the purposes of seeking compensation. It is worth exploring and eliminating any differences in eligibility that arise from the fact that the person is not formally identified as a victim of human trafficking or the victim is not habitually resident.

Article 19 of the EU directive provides for the establishment of a national rapporteur or an equivalent mechanism that will be in charge of statistical data, extraction of trends and evaluation of the adequacy of national measures against trafficking human beings. Currently, the anti-human trafficking unit collates statistics and presents trends in this crime. However, the element of independent evaluation cannot be provided by this unit because it is at the centre of decisions on measures and their implementation. Therefore, when a decision on such a rapporteur body is being taken, there should be close co-operation with civil society organisations to ensure we are compliant and fully in line with the directive.

Although they are not defined as workers under our current labour laws, but given the specific vulnerability of their class to exploitation, forced labour and human trafficking, I wish to flag my concern about the unregulated and scrutinising of the au pair industry. The vast majority of parents and au pairs have a really positive experience from this short-term cultural exchange with some child-minding duties. I am not talking about that area specifically but given the crisis in affordable access to child care, we have seen increased instances of au pairs being taken on as child-minders. To all intents and purposes, they have been exploited as domestic workers. I have met some of those au pairs and it is clear that their employment aspects need to be regulated.

We also need to examine the child protection concerns and the vetting of au pairs. There is no facility for parents to have an au pair vetted, unless they go through an agency, so perhaps we need to ensure that this is done through agencies. In addition, no guidance is being given by the State to parents and au pairs about their expectations. For example, how does an au pair, who is new to this country, raise concerns about child protection and alert the authorities here? I have heard cases involving au pairs whose documentation has been taken from them and they are not given access to the public. While I know it is outside this Bill’s remit because it is not a labour issue, the problem is that the au pair problem falls between so many gaps. I will raise the matter with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Fitzgerald, and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton.

Despite raising these issues, I fully support the Bill. However, I want the legislation to be fully in line with the EU anti-trafficking directive. I hope the Minister of State can assure me that the matters I have referred to will be addressed through policy or additional legislation.

Order of Business, 23 April 2013

Tuesday, 23rd April 2013

At the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Scouting Ireland delegate conference, which brought together 800 delegates representing 40,000 members. Two motions which were voted on will be of interest to the House. One was on Scouting Ireland’s fears the proposed sale of Coillte will threaten its open access policy. Unbeknownst to me until I arrived, another motion had been tabled calling on the Minister for Justice and Equality to enact legislation requiring ISPs operating in Ireland to block access to all child abuse material, as has been done in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Malta, Italy and Britain. I have raised this issue in the House and we have had a good discussion on it. Scouting Ireland voted unanimously on the motion. The Minister, Deputy Shatter, has committed that blocking will be fully considered in the context of the development of the planned sexual offences Bill. I am very concerned this Bill is scheduled for 2014. This is an urgent matter. It is about protecting real children from real abuse in the real world. I call on the Leader to convey to the Minister a request to bring forward a separate Bill to deal with this distinctly.

Today is the national day of action and raising public awareness on direct provision. I am disappointed and confused the Adjournment matter I addressed to the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, has been ruled out of order. Since the introduction of the Social Welfare and Pensions (No. 2) Act 2009, asylum seekers cannot ever be considered habitually resident in the State. Since access to most welfare payments, including supplementary welfare allowance, is now restricted to those habitually resident in the State, and since asylum seekers cannot be considered habitually resident, I asked what is the legislative basis for the continued accommodation and payments made to asylum seekers.

This is a question for the Minister for Social Protection. For example, the payment slips to asylum seekers refer to the Department of Social Protection. However, I take the Leader on his word that the Minister has no responsibility for this matter, even though the payment slips clearly state “Department of Social Protection”. I am now being directed back to the Department of Justice and Equality where I did not get an answer to this question last week, so I ask the Leader to arrange for a debate on direct provision. I have been moved from one Department to another on this issue, yet nobody is willing to take responsibility for it. I believe that we are operating outside a legislative basis with the payments. We need an answer to this question, rather than being shuttled between Departments.

Discussion with Minister for Children and Youth Affairs

Friday, 19th April 2013

As I did not have the opportunity that Deputy Ó Caoláin had earlier this week, I will try to ask all of my questions. I welcome this opportunity to engage with the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs. I agree with many of her comments. We saw the heads of the adoption legislation prior to the referendum, but it would be good if we could start teasing out some of the issues. We need a focused discussion. I have received a number of representations on several issues, for example, the right to identity, information and tracing. Perhaps this committee can play a role in teasing out those issues.

I will keep tripping over the term “child and family agency”, as we had grown used to the term “family support”. I wish to know more. It is not just about the word “support”, but about the term “family support”. I wish to understand what is behind the Government’s decision to remove the word “support”.

While I welcome the appointment of Ms Gibbons, who is of an outstanding calibre, as chair, why was the position not advertised? All appointments should be publicly advertised. I do not question Ms Gibbons’s calibre. I will be facilitative of the process.

I am still struggling with trying to understand what will comprise the child and family agency. We are awaiting the Bill, to which I look forward. In recent weeks, I have met public health nurses. There is a debate on whether they should be a part of the agency, both sides of which they have discussed with me. They believe that they have a role outside of the agency, but how can we develop that in parallel to the agency’s development? I have many ideas in that regard.

Regarding the three sites in terms of child poverty, I welcome the helpful information the Minister has provided the committee, but I am uncomfortable with a tendering process. Is there not a better way? Perhaps a decision could be based on deprivation levels. A rural area’s selection could also be ensured, as urban areas are not the only ones in which solutions must be found and mainstreamed. However, the idea of asking communities to tender while they are in poverty does not sit well with me in terms of clarity around how that process will work.

The Minister pointed me towards the “Minister for Justice and Law Reform” on the topic of direct provision. I will continue to pursue the matter. I am happy with her answer, but he is actually the Minister for Justice and Equality. Perhaps this is an old answer or he has been mistitled.

I am concerned about children in direct provision. I have visited two centres. That environment is damaging to children. In Dr. Geoffrey Shannon’s report last year, he asked for a report to be conducted into this situation. The committee hopes to hold a hearing on direct provision.

I wish to focus on youth work and its funding. Last December, I initiated a good debate in the Seanad on the value of youth work. The Minister is aware that information recently became known to the youth sector in response to a freedom of information request. That information outlined approved significant changes in the youth sector. The document could be described as a game changer. These decisions were made in the autumn, prior to our debate in the Seanad. Will the Minister confirm whether she has approved the City of Dublin Youth Services Board, CDYSB, a sub-committee of the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee, CDVEC, becoming the key agency to assume full national responsibility for administration, distribution and monitoring of youth work’s main funding schemes, thereby removing responsibility for administrating funds locally from a number of national voluntary youth organisations and individual VECs in every county? Are there plans to replace the existing funding schemes with two new schemes unilaterally and without awaiting the development of the strategic youth policy framework or the outcome of the value for money review, which the Minister recently commissioned, or without consulting stakeholders? I have read the documents carefully – they assert these positions. I want clarity on these issues. Assuming these positions are being taken, it is disappointing that the document was not put into the public domain during the Seanad debate.

I wish to address the issue of aftercare. The early child care sector has seen significant developments. It would be useful if regulations and eligibility criteria could be developed. Aftercare services are springing up on an ad hoc basis. We need to be clear on what the funding will be used for. It should not be allocated locally.

Adjournment Motion – Direct Provision by the Department of Justice and Equality

Thursday, 18th April 2013

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Although I am disappointed that none of the Adjournment matters I have raised in regard to direct provision has been taken by the Minister for Justice and Equality, who has direct responsibility for the matter, I welcome the presence of the Minister for Health.

The system of direct provision has been in operation since April 2000. However, concerns have been expressed about the lack of a legislative basis for the operation of direct provision. In light of the Ombudsman’s concern about the operation of the former mobility allowance scheme, it is essential that the rule of law operates in all aspects of our social welfare code. When direct provision was initially introduced 13 years ago, it was viewed as a limited system that would operate for a maximum of six months. However, the legal basis for the system is now unclear. When it was initially introduced it was argued that the direct provision for asylum seekers was permitted by providing supplementary welfare allowance in kind rather than in cash. Asylum seekers were offered bed and board by the Reception and Integration Agency and were provided with a weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.06 per child, amounts that have not changed since 2000.

Since the introduction of the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2009, asylum seekers cannot be considered as habitually resident in the State. Given that access to most welfare payments, including supplementary welfare allowance, is restricted to those who are habitually residents, what is the legislative basis for the continued accommodation of and payments to asylum seekers?

Dr. Liam Thornton, a researcher on the law and policy of direct provision in UCD’s school of law, recently published an article on the dubious legality of the direct provision system. The article notes that in 2006 the then Secretary General of what is now the Department of Social Protection, Mr. John Hynes, raised his concern with the then Secretary General of what is now the Department of Justice and Equality, Mr. Seán Aylward, that the regular direct provision payments to asylum seekers were outside the powers, or ultra vires, of the Department of Social Protection. According to documents received by Dr. Thornton after a freedom of information request, an attempt was made in 2006 or 2007 to place the direct provision payment on a legislative footing. However, the attempt was subsequently abandoned. I can provide the Minister with a copy of Dr. Thornton’s article, the correspondence between the Secretaries General and the draft legislation if he so desires.

It is necessary for the Minister for Justice and Equality to provide an assurance that the direct provision system has a clear legislative basis in Irish law. It is of serious concern that the system leaves individuals and, in particular, families to languish for several years without any definitive decision on their entitlement to remain in the State. I welcomed the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill 2010 but it has been on Committee Stage in the Dáil since 2010. We have now been waiting for that Bill for eight years and counting. What is the legislative basis for the continued operation of the direct provision system?

An Cathaoirleach, Senator Paddy Burke: Before I call the Minister to reply, I ask Members to join me in welcoming the Right Honourable Ivan Rombouts, the honorary consul in Antwerp.

Minister James Reilly: He is very welcome. I recognise the tie. I am responding on this topic on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality. The question asked by the Senator presupposes that there must be a specific legislative underpinning for the provision of State services to persons who otherwise would not be entitled to such services. Legislating for legislation’s sake is unwise. If a case is being made for a change in how asylum seekers are accommodated, which is a view that the Senator has expressed on a number of occasions, that is an issue for policy in the first instance rather than legislation.

The direct provision system ensures the delivery of services alongside legislative provisions which would otherwise specifically prohibit asylum seekers from being provided with the basic necessities of life. For example, asylum seekers cannot work under section 9(4)(b) of the Refugee Act 1996, cannot access rent allowance under section 13 of the Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2003 and are not entitled to a range of benefits, including child benefit, as they are deemed to be not habitually resident under section 246(7) of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005.

As an administrative system, direct provision is unique in this State but as a result of it no asylum seeker has ever been left homeless. Clearly the system is not without its faults but in the 13 years of its existence over 51,000 asylum seekers have been accommodated under it. Asylum seekers receive nourishment on a par with, and in some cases superior to, that available to the general population. They receive a health service on the same basis as Irish citizens and in many cases the service is far superior to what is available in their countries of origin. Children of asylum seekers are provided with primary and secondary education in the local community on the same basis as the children of Irish citizens. The system of direct provision is not unique to Ireland. Many other countries operate similar systems for meeting the reception needs of asylum seekers and all face challenges which are broadly similar to the issues arising here.

There are no cheaper alternatives to the direct provision system. If we were operating a system which facilitated asylum seekers in living independent lives in individual housing with social welfare support and payments, the cost to the Exchequer would be double what is currently paid under the direct provision system, even discounting the additional pull factor this would entail.

This was a key finding in the value for money report in 2010.

Allowing asylum seekers access to the full array of welfare and housing benefits would run a real risk of resulting in a large upsurge in economic migrants masquerading as asylum seekers coming here in the expectation of accessing these services. Furthermore, in respect of any major change of policy, we have to take account of the common travel area between Ireland and the United Kingdom which facilitates free movement between the jurisdictions.

It must be borne in mind that the persons residing in direct provision accommodation are here for a specific reason, namely, to claim international protection from the State. This entitlement is protected by international obligations which the State has entered into and by a comprehensive national and EU legal framework and accompanying administrative processes which govern the processing of protection applications.

The Minister acknowledges that there is an issue with the length of time applicants spend in direct provision accommodation. While not suggesting applicants are not entitled to the protection of the courts and due process, a consequence of frequent recourse to the courts to challenge decisions in these legislative processes is an extension of the length of time spent in direct provision accommodation. This underlying problem does not arise from a lack of legislation – quite the opposite. There are many reasons applicants spend lengthy periods in direct provision accommodation. I have referred to legal challenges as one reason. Undoubtedly, another significant issue is the cumbersome and multi-layered legal protection process in the State. There is a clear imperative to change and radically reform that process and the Minister is committed to introducing it.

As the Minister has stated, he intends to republish a revised immigration, residence and protection Bill which will substantially simplify and streamline the existing arrangements for asylum, subsidiary protection and leave to remain applications. It will do this by making provision for the establishment of a single application procedure in order that applicants can be provided with a final decision on all aspects of their protection applications in a more straightforward and timely fashion, thus reducing the length of time they spend in the direct provision system.

Pending the enactment and commencement of the new legislation and with a view to improving processing, the Minister proposes to introduce new arrangements for the processing of subsidiary protection applications in the light of recent judgments in the superior courts. His Department, in consultation with the Attorney General’s office, is developing a new legislative and administrative framework for the processing of current and future subsidiary protection applications. This work is being given high priority and applicants will be advised of the new arrangements as soon as possible. In the meantime, the system is overseen by the Reception and Integration Agency of the Department of Justice and Equality. The RIA is subject to the same Civil Service obligations of fairness in the implementation of policy as any other area of government in implementing a scheme, statutory or non-statutory. It is worth noting that since the Minister took office, the number of persons being accommodated in direct provision accommodation has fallen significantly, by approximately 1,000 or 25% in the period in question.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: Perhaps my question was not clear enough. I will take it up again with the Minister for Social Protection. The correspondence between the then Secretary General of the Department of Social Protection and the Department of Justice and Equality in 2006 states payments made to asylum seekers were ultra vires the Department of Social Protection. The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2009 clearly states asylum seekers cannot ever be considered habitually resident in the State. My question is: how is the State making these payments? I advise the Cathaoirleach that I propose to submit a request to raise this matter on the Adjournment with the Minister for Social Protection. While I appreciate the response given by the Minister for Health, Deputy James Reilly, it does not answer my question.

Minister James Reilly: The Minister would like to be here, but that is not possible. On his behalf, I acknowledge the points made by the Senator. However, this is essentially about policy rather than legislation, as emphasised by the Senator in her follow-up remarks. The reasons behind that policy remain unchanged. The direct provision system was not put in place by accident; it was a necessary response to the increasing number of asylum seekers arriving in the State. Before 1999, asylum seekers were treated as homeless persons under the structures in place. These structures were unsuited to the situation facing Ireland; the homeless persons service of the then Eastern Health Board could not cope and there was a serious prospect of widespread homelessness among asylum seekers. The direct provision system is only one element of the State’s response to its international obligations on the asylum issue. As well as educational, health and welfare costs, there are asylum determination system and downstream judicial and policing costs. Meeting our international obligations in this respect consumes considerable public moneys. However, Ireland is not unique in this respect. All countries which take this issue seriously are faced with similar calls on their financial resources. The role of the Reception and Integration Agency is to adapt to circumstances in ways which specific legislative provisions might not anticipate. In recent years it has introduced child protection measures, including Garda vetting, and will in the coming months begin to publish on its website completed inspection reports on each of the centres under contract to it. It has also to adapt to the decline in the number of persons seeking accommodation. In the four year period 2009 to 2012, inclusive, it closed 25 centres and accommodated 2,161 fewer persons. This flexibility and adaptability of the direct provision system would not be assisted but, possibly, hindered by specific legislation underpinning it.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout: My question is about the legal status of the payments being made. It is not about the legal status of the policy in place. I appreciate the Minister’s response, but it does not address my question.

Minister James Reilly: I will make the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, aware of the position.

Order of Business, 17 April 2013

Wednesday, 17th April 2013

I am disappointed the matter I wished to raise on the Adjournment was not taken as it was lodged before some of the others that were accepted.

I welcome the Government’s acceptance of the cross-party Private Members’ Bill, along with Senator Ivana Bacik, to set aside the Statute of Limitations for the survivors of symphysiotomy. I am aware from the debate in the House last May that many Senators advocated this position. It is a horror story which I have followed closely as a member of the victims of symphysiotomy all-party support group. I pay tribute to the survivors, their families and supporters and those who advocated and campaigned tirelessly on their behalf. I pay tribute to Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, convenor of the all-party group, whose determination and commitment to seek justice for the survivors has kept the issue firmly on the Oireachtas agenda. While I do not condone the length of time it has taken to get here, this is how things should be done. It has restored my faith in consensus politics and how we can work together to achieve good. While the agreement by the Government to support the Bill through Second Stage is welcome, I ask the Leader to urge the Government to begin actively engaging with the survivors and their representative groups to address their immediate health and support needs and, in parallel, to put a structure in place that will ensure redress.

I wish to raise the plight of the 32 thalidomide survivors. At an Oireachtas briefing they shared some of their specific support needs. Regrettably, they are being shunted between Departments. I ask the Leader to urge the Government to engage with them and their representative groups at the earliest opportunity.

On Monday, in response to the publication of the European Commission’s report on trafficking in human beings, I called on the Government to transpose immediately the EU anti-trafficking directive into national legislation. This was due to be done by 6 April. The directive has the potential to impact significantly on the lives of trafficked victims and will help prevent others from falling victim to this heinous crime. I welcome the publication yesterday of the criminal law human trafficking Bill to give effect to certain provisions of the EU anti-trafficking directive. I look forward to comparing the Bill against the directive and hope to find all the necessary elements incorporated. Significantly, the Bill defines forced labour in accordance with ILO convention 29. This is something I have called for in the past and I welcome its inclusion. I ask the Leader to commend the Government for initiating the Bill in this House.

I welcome the appointment of the members designate of the new Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. They are of fine calibre and will bring extensive expertise to their role. I hope a suitable chair can be found at the earliest opportunity.

Senator van Turnhout Calls on Ireland to Immediately Transpose the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive into National Legislation

Press Statement, 15 April 2013





I warmly welcome today’s publication of the European Commission’s Eurostat Report Trafficking in human beings.  I note with extreme concern that 62% of all those identified or presumed to be victims of human trafficking in the EU over the 2008-2010 period, were trafficked for sexual exploitation, with countries of trafficking origin identified both inside and outside the EU.


According to Department of Justice annual reports of trafficking in human beings in Ireland for 2009, 2010, and 2011, there were 132 detected cases of trafficking for sexual exploitation, of which 32 were children.  Despite this, there has been a negligible number of prosecutions under the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008 and the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act, 1998.  Furthermore, Ireland has failed to transpose the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive, the deadline for which expired on 6 April.


Following a very constructive meeting last week with Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator, where we shared our mutual concerns, I call on the Government to immediately transpose the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive into national legislation.  The EU Directive will have a significant impact on the lives of trafficking victims and will prevent others from falling victim to this heinous crime.


I will continue my work in the Seanad: advocating to criminalise the purchase of sex in Ireland to curb prostitution and trafficking; seeking to introduce and strengthen regulations around vulnerable work placements, such as Au-Pairing; and focusing on the distinct vulnerability of asylum seekers in Direct Provision to trafficking and exploitation in Ireland.



Notes for the Editor:

European Commission Report: Trafficking in human beings, Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and replacing Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA, and all related European Commission press releases can be view at


For More Information, Please Contact:                                                                

Senator Jillian van Turnhout,                                                                                                                                    Leader of the Independent Group (Taoiseach’s Nominees)                                                              Phone: 01-6183375                                                                                                                                      e-mail: