433. Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the steps he is taking to address and raise awareness around the issue of modern day slavery (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12826/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Ireland is fully committed to addressing the challenges of modern slavery, known as human trafficking under Irish and EU legislation and the principal international conventions. Co-ordination of national efforts in this area is the responsibility of my Department.
Ireland has ratified the principal international Human Trafficking treaties:
- The Palermo Protocol (2000) to the UN Convention against Organised Crime
- The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (2005)
In the EU and Ireland, the following legislation is relevant:
- EU Anti Trafficking Directive (2011/36/EU)
- Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 and Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013
On 4 February this year, Ireland ratified the ILO Forced Labour Protocol, which reinforces the international legal framework for combatting all forms of forced labour, including trafficking in persons. This initiative, by my colleague the Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation, puts Ireland among the group known as “50 for Freedom”, which stems from an ILO initiative to encourage member countries to ratify the Protocol by the end of 2019.
An Garda Síochána has committed significant resources to the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking. A specialised Garda Unit, the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit (HTICU), has been established to coordinate delivery of national strategy. On 6 March, I met with the Garda Commissioner to discuss this despicable crime and I welcome his and his officers' commitment to this task.
A number of State bodies provide care and practical support to victims, including the HSE, the Reception and Integration Agency, the Legal Aid Board, the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service and Tusla. The International Organisation for Migration provides assistance in relation to returning victims to their country of origin. Once a person has been identified as a victim, they are brought into the National Referral Mechanism to receive State supports. Victims receive medical care; accommodation; legal advice; help with their immigration status; and help to travel home.
My Department also provides funding to several Non-Governmental Organisations for their work to provide support to victims of trafficking. I am also funding several research and awareness raising programmes in this field.
A training programme is ongoing for Garda members and my Department and An Garda Síochána have an ongoing programme of awareness raising and training to a variety of targeted groups who may come into contact with victims, including frontline Government bodies such as the Department of Social Protection, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Border Management Unit of my Department.
Awareness-raising presentations are provided to schools, third-level institutions and support agencies.
Each year in October, Ireland marks EU Anti Human Trafficking Day with an awareness raising programme. In 2018, my Department hosted a screening of an award winning documentary, “The Price of Sex” alongside a talk from a survivor of sex trafficking. My officials have also worked with RTÉ to provide accurate information for use in documentaries and dramas.
Information on trafficking in Ireland is publicly available on the “Blue Blindfold” website, www.blueblindfold.gov.ie, which is maintained by my Department. Information leaflets and branded merchandise are available for distribution at awareness raising events.