The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern TD, today published a National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

The National Action Plan contains a range of measures designed to crackdown on individuals and gangs involved in trafficking in people, awareness campaigns and the collection of up to date data on the nature and extent of trafficking.

The Plan sets out measures already introduced and areas which require further action.  It sets outs the structures which, when in place, will bring Ireland into line with its international obligations, allowing for the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings and the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.

Minister Ahern said: "This plan is a key element in fulfilling this Government’s commitment to tackling trafficking in people – one of the most horrendous crimes worldwide.  Effectively, we are dealing with a modern form of slavery, a gross violation of human rights and an extremely profitable business for organised crime.   Our Plan is designed to support victims and create a hostile environment for those who seek to perpetrate this evil crime both within our jurisdiction and across our borders.  

"It is difficult to estimate the levels of human trafficking because of the nature of the crime.  One victim is one too many.  This Plan is designed to ensure that we have a strategy in place which will proactively and comprehensively address this issue.  We want to raise awareness of the issue among the general public and put in place the structures required to protect victims and bring the perpetrators to justice."

The key preventative measures include
·        Penalties of up to life imprisonment for, inter alia, trafficking of persons for the purposes of labour, sexual exploitation or removal of organs.
·        Awareness raising by means of targeted campaigns, programmes and information aimed at law enforcement and frontline personnel, victims, migrant communities, countries of origin.
·        Development of a Data Strategy to establish the nature and extent of human trafficking in Ireland which will provide an evidential basis for future policies and programmes to tackle trafficking in persons.

The key protective measures include
·        The provision of accommodation, medical treatment, counselling, material assistance, legal aid and advice and interpretation and translation where necessary.
·        Provision of periods of recovery and reflection period of 60 days and temporary residency permits for six months (renewable) where suspected victims are cooperating with an investigation or prosecution.  
·        Access to the labour market for persons not in the asylum system who are granted six months temporary residence permits (renewable).
·        Information outlining the rights and services available to potential and/or suspected victims and the contact details for organisations which will be useful to a potential and/or suspected victim.
·        Legislative provisions to protect the identity of suspected victims during criminal proceedings for human trafficking offences.

The key protections for child victims include
·        Counselling and debriefing, together with a multidisciplinary assessment of need and a Care Plan.   The child will be allocated a social worker to oversee and implement his/her care plan.  
·        As part of the implementation of the HSE Plan to mainstream the services provided to separated children, the practice of accommodating children in hostels will be brought to an end as alternative arrangements become available.  The main focus of the Plan is to place children with families in local communities throughout the State.  It is hoped that these placements will minimise the risk in relation to exploitation.
·        Implementation of the recommendation of the Garda Síochána Inspectorate, that an emergency alert system for missing children, similar to ‘Amber Alert’ in place in other countries should be established.  

The key prosecution and investigation measures include
·        The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 provides penalties of up to life imprisonment for human trafficking offences.
·        Priority to be afforded by the Garda Síochána to the prevention and detection of human trafficking through ongoing operations and co-operation with other jurisdictions, international organisations and national stakeholders.

There will be a mid term review of the Plan which will involve a consultation process with relevant stakeholders.  The Plan will then be updated in the light of that review and to take account of changing circumstances and Ireland’s growing experience of the practical issues surrounding human trafficking. Implementation will be monitored by the Interdepartmental High Level Group which drew up the Plan.

·        This National Action Plan follows on from a public consultation process which took place in late 2007.   Nearly thirty submissions were received from a variety of sources, but primarily from the NGO community working in this area.  The submissions were carefully considered when drawing up the Plan.  A number of the NGOs also actively participate in an NGO/Governmental/International organisation working group structure within the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the views they expressed there have been taken into account in the preparation of the Plan.

Minister Ahern also said "I want to acknowledge in particular the contributions made by many NGOs in addressing this issue and in the preparation of the Plan as well as the efforts of the many governmental agencies involved.  The Plan represents – for the first time in this jurisdiction – a detailed roadmap in relation to tackling the scourge of human trafficking but its implementation will, of course, be subject to continuous review among all those involved in this area and we will continue to develop responses in the light of emerging trends.  I look forward to the high level of co-operation between the governmental and non-governmental sector, which is reflected in the Plan, continuing".

Copies of the Executive Summary and the full National Action Plan are available on the Department’s website

10 June 2009.