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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Combatting Human Trafficking

I call for a debate with the Minister for Justice, Deputy Harris, on the steps Ireland is taking to combat the human trafficking taking place on our shores. I welcome his signalling that Ireland is to join the EU directive that will amend the anti-trafficking directive, strengthening our ability to combat these crimes and introducing a European referral mechanism to improve the early identification of victims and provide support. A harmonised definition of the likes of forced marriage and illegal adoptions throughout the EU, and the use of advance passenger information, will make us better able to identify, disrupt and prosecute those involved in organised crime engaging in the trafficking of persons for labour or prostitution. Last year, the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings stated, "Sexual exploitation [in Ireland] remains the primary form of exploitation, but the number of people trafficked for labour exploitation – in sectors including fishing, farming, construction, catering and domestic work – grew over the same period." That trafficking for labour exploitation means this is under-recognised and under-reported.

Shockingly, there have been no convictions for trafficking for labour exploitation in this country despite the increasing numbers of identified suspected cases, and yet Ireland is not immune to trafficking. We need to hear what is being done by the Government to step up the effort to combat trafficking. We need to establish safe reporting procedures for foreign workers and to review the atypical working scheme in the fisheries industry to ensure it contains sufficient safeguards against the trafficking and exploitation of fishermen. We need to examine what can be done to raise awareness of the warning signs of trafficking in order that people can monitor their own communities, with specialised training for people who work closely with at-risk individuals in how to spot indicators of human trafficking among children. The mass movement of persons across the European Continent as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine has provided traffickers with the perfect smokescreen to carry out large-scale operations undetected. We must be extra-vigilant in this environment to ensure the vulnerabilities of people in flux will not be exploited for profit. I am reminded of this time last year when 91 children were flown into Dublin Airport by a charity - 59 of them unaccompanied - and Tusla did not even know about it. I am not saying there was anything untoward about that instance but it shows that the eye needs to be on the ball all the time. I ask that we invite in the Minister or a Minister of State for a debate on this.

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