101. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prosecutions made relating to trafficking persons to Ireland in 2014 and to date in 2015; and the steps she is taking to eliminate this criminal behaviour. [9536/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): On 1 January 2009, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of my Department initiated a data collection strategy for the purpose of gaining a more in-depth understanding of the nature and extent of human trafficking in Ireland. To date, annual reports for 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 have been published and are available from Ireland’s dedicated anti-human trafficking website,
www.blueblindfold.gov.ie, in addition to my Department’s website.
With regard to the specific information sought by the Deputy, fourteen (14) prosecutions in relation to human trafficking were taken in 2014, one (1) of which related to the trafficking of a person to Ireland. I am informed by An Garda Síochána that to the end of February 2015 a total of eleven (11) new human trafficking related investigations have been commenced, however, no prosecution relating to alleged human trafficking offences has been initiated to date in 2015. Human trafficking related investigations are complex, often involving an international dimension, which can result in prosecutions being initiated some considerable time after an offence is reported or discovered.
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 was 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 Garda Commissioner has recently announced the establishment of a Child Protection and Human Exploitation Unit, within An Garda Síochána. This unit is to include Child Protection, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit (DVSAIU) and Human Trafficking. A Detective Chief Superintendent is to take charge of this new unit.
-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, G.P. 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.