· Innovative measures needed to ‘follow the money’ in international trafficking
· Minister says steps must be taken to reduce demand for services of victims
7th October 2014
Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald T.D. met in Dublin this morning with Dr Myria Vassiliadou, the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator.
Speaking after the meeting Minister Fitzgerald said: “It is clear that we must do more to tackle this most evil crime. We must continue to innovate in the measures we take to track down traffickers and disrupt their activities. Our capacity to work at both a national and international level on targeted intelligence led operations and to ‘follow the money’ was discussed with Dr Vassiliadou.”
The Minister went on to state: “Continued targeting of criminals at the higher end of the trafficking chain is a challenge we must work on with our international partners. Victims of trafficking are most often extremely vulnerable persons; investigations that focus on gathering evidence in relation to issues such as finances reduces the burden on victims as the only source of evidence against traffickers."
“As well as focusing on bringing to justice those who engage in this most heinous crime, we must also take steps to reduce the demand for the services of victims of trafficking. If the demand for the services of victims can be reduced, and hopefully eliminated, the business model of trafficking can be significantly undermined.”
Speaking after the meeting Dr Vassiliadou said: “I was delighted to meet this morning with the Minister to discuss this most important issue. It was clear to me that the Minister has shown a close personal interest in this issue and that she shares our passion to fight against traffickers and protect trafficking victims. Tackling the demand for the services of trafficking victims is key to our fight against this crime and I was pleased to hear the Minister place such emphasis on this.”
The Minister’s meeting with Dr Vassiliadou is among a number of events she is participating in to highlight the issue of human trafficking, surrounding EU Anti-Trafficking Day which falls on Saturday 18 October:
· Last week in Washington, the Minister met with Ambassador Luis CdeBaca the Senior Advisor to the US Secretary of State who directs the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
· This Friday (10 October) a banner will be erected on Liberty Hall to mark EU Anti-Trafficking Day
· Also to mark EU Anti Trafficking Day, next Monday (13 October) the Minister will be giving the opening address to a Conference for Senior Garda Officers in the Garda College, Templemore. The purpose of the conference is to bring together senior management of An Garda Síochána with international experts to discuss best practice in combating this crime and protecting its victims.
· On the 17 October the Minister will be giving a keynote speech at a conference in relation to Human Trafficking organised by the Immigrant Council of Ireland in the Mansion House.
· The Minister has also met in recent weeks with leading civil society groups, such as Ruhama and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, to hear their views in relation to human trafficking.
A ‘Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking of Persons’ setting out the Government’s approach to the issue of Human Trafficking is currently being drafted and is expected to be issued for public consultation in the near future. This Plan will draw on the international evaluation of Ireland’s efforts in this regard, as well as being informed by the views of national civil society actors active in this field.
The Minister said: “My meeting with Dr Vassiliadou is one of a series of opportunities I am taking to meet with international and national experts before I finalise the new National Action Plan. I am anxious to hear the views of all stakeholders, so that we can assure ourselves that our new Plan meets the challenges we face.”
Anyone with suspicions of human trafficking can report their concerns anonymously to An Garda Síochána through Crimestoppers at 1 800 25 00 25 or via a dedicated email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note for editors:
(1) A brief biography of Dr Vassiliadou is appended.
(2) EU Anti Trafficking Day
In October, 2007 the European Commission declared 18 October annual EU Anti-Trafficking Day to demonstrate its long-standing commitment to preventing and fighting trafficking in human beings. The designation of a specific day - 18 October – to be the EU Anti-Trafficking Day is intended to raise awareness about the phenomena of human trafficking across the EU.
(3) Further Information on Human Trafficking in Ireland
Over the past number of years strong legislative, administrative and operational measures have been put in place in Ireland to combat and prevent trafficking in human beings.
The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008, with penalties of up to life imprisonment for human trafficking, greatly strengthened the law in this area and this legislation has been further bolstered in 2013 with new forms of exploitation, for forced begging and forced criminal activities, being provided for in new legislation.
A dedicated Anti-Human Trafficking Unit was established in the Department of Justice & Equality in 2008 with the purpose of ensuring that the State's response to human trafficking is coordinated and comprehensive. In addition to that dedicated Unit in the Department of Justice & Equality there are 3 other dedicated Units in State Agencies dealing with the issue:
· the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit in the Garda National Immigration Bureau ;
· the Anti-Human Trafficking Team in the Health Service Executive, who develop individualised care plans for victims, and
· a specialised Human Trafficking legal team in the Legal Aid Board.
Dedicated personnel are also assigned to deal with the prosecution of cases in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and staff in the New Communities and Asylum Seekers Unit in the Department of Social Protection facilitates victims moving into mainstream social services. There are also a wide range of training and awareness raising activities on-going and extensive consultation structures exist with Non-Governmental Organisations, International Organisations and State Agencies.
This year, and for the past few years, An Garda Síochána, in its Annual Policing Plan, has identified trafficking in human beings as one of its priorities with an increased focus given to prevention and detection of human trafficking. Any suspicion of human trafficking that is reported to An Garda Síochána is the subject of a comprehensive investigation.
The State provides a wide range of support services to victims of human trafficking, these include: accommodation, medical care and planning, psychological assistance, material assistance, legal aid and advice, vocational training and education. The Anti-Human Trafficking Team in the HSE develops individual Care Plans for persons who are potentially victims of human trafficking. These Care Plans include a range of issues including medical health, GP referral, counselling, psychological care, sexual health, material assistance, accommodation, training needs, education, etc.
The Government’s approach to the issue of Human Trafficking is set out in the National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking of Persons which set out 144 Actions to be undertaken to address this issue. A copy of the National Action Plan and a Review of the Plan are available on the dedicated Anti-Trafficking site blueblindfold.gov.ie A Second National Action Plan is currently at an advanced stage of drafting and will be the subject of consultation with a broad range of organisations active in this field. This Plan will also be informed by the findings of international evaluations of Ireland’s anti-trafficking measures.
Further information in relation to human trafficking in Ireland, including Annual Statistical Reports, can be found on the State’s dedicated anti-trafficking website blueblindfold.gov.ie
Myria Vassiliadou, EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator
Ms Myria Vassiliadou assumed office in March 2011 and is based within the European Commission, DG Home-Affairs. The position of the EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator was foreseen in the "Stockholm Programme" and her mandate is further elaborated in the Anti-Trafficking Directive2011/36/EU, according to which she is tasked to improve coordination and coherence between EU institutions, EU agencies, Member States and international actors and to develop existing and new EU policies relevant to addressing trafficking in human beings. She is further tasked to monitor the implementation of the new and integrated "EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings (2012-2016)", as well as to provide overall strategic policy orientation for the EU's external policy in this field.
She holds degrees in Sociology and Social Research and a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. She has also been a Research Fellow at the Solomon Asch Centre for Study of Ethno-political conflict, at the University of Pennsylvania. Ms Vassiliadou previously served as Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby, the largest network of women’s associations across the EU. She was a founding member of the think tank Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies and served as its Director for seven years and subsequently as the Chair of the Board of Administration. For over a decade, Ms Vassiliadou worked as an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nicosia and taught undergraduate and graduate classes in Sociology.
Ms Vassiliadou previously worked in the European Commission as a Detached National Expert in the Directorate General for Research. Furthermore, she has served as a member of various Advisory Boards, Expert Groups and acted as a consultant at the national and international level. She has worked extensively in the area of fundamental rights, as these relate to questions of trafficking inhuman beings, gender, migration, ethno-political conflict, and the media. She has published in several books and journals, conducted workshops and seminars, and has been actively involved in various think tanks, EU wide research projects and national/international non-governmental organisations. She is trained as a counsellor on interpersonal violence against women and also as a facilitator/mediator on conflict transformation and negotiations.