Seanad debates

Thursday, 11 April 2024

EU Regulations (Police Co-operation on Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings): Motion


9:30 am

Photo of Rónán MullenRónán Mullen (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister to the House and congratulate the Minister on her reappointment. We look forward to seeing her regularly in this House, although not on one particular Bill unless there are substantial changes but we will talk about that on another occasion.

The Minister has brought a very important issue before us. I support the motion that we opt in to this measure. It is vital, as a country, that we up our game in response to the problem of human trafficking. Maybe we should have a debate in the House on why we are only at level two according to the trafficking in persons report? We have been underperforming in this area for a long time. Recognising the goodwill on all sides, we should not be afraid to ask what has gone wrong and why we are laggards in this area. Is it that we are not putting enough money into it? God knows, we have enough money in this country. Is it that we are not appointing enough staff?

I came through Dublin Airport recently. Long before reaching passport control, passengers were asked to show our passports getting off the plane. I was glad to see that. It is a sign of a new vigilance. I hope that rigidity or determination - if that is what it betokens - will be matched by deeper thinking and a compassionate and consistent approach to the whole area of migration. I have always said that we need a policy that is generous but structured and structured but generous. It is vital that we get this issue right because when it comes to drugs and trafficking if these issues get out of control, this country will not always have the resources it has now.

I often wonder if we think enough about what our society will look like in 50 or 60 years' time if we do not get these problems under control. Will it be a capital offence, for example? Will capital punishment come back in as a response to major drug smuggling and trafficking issues? We think we have achieved a certain human rights standard now but if problems get out of control, lots of other things will change too. It is vital, not just for humanitarian reasons but for the very coherence and stability of our society, that we get to grips with these issues.I was very struck by what Senator Ward said and he brought home the issue that we are all encountering victims of trafficking in ways. Are we doing enough? For example, should there be a public awareness campaign? We see ads on TV and hear them on radio warning against domestic violence and all sorts of other important problems. Are people being alerted to their obligations as citizens to be aware of the possibility of trafficking? Are there sufficient consequences, for example, if people accept and take in a trafficked person as a cleaner and underpay them? Is there an inspectorate, for example, that would visit abattoirs and car washes? Does it happen or does it happen enough that there are random inspections to see who is working in these places? Are people employed and on the books or are they being exploited? This is very complex because in some cases families bring other family members in and work as a team. However, in other cases, people have been trafficked for labour that is underpaid or not paid at all. Is the reason we have been underperforming in the TIP report that we do not have boots on the ground, so to speak? Is it that we have not taken it seriously at governmental level and put out the advertising to alert people to their civic and moral responsibilities not to have anything to do with trafficking and not to get implicated as an end user in any way of the trafficking business? Have we got enough people on the ground? I mean bloodhounds, not just watchdogs, who are seeking out where this is happening and taking action accordingly. I am afraid I have had many more questions than answers in what I have had to say today but this is an issue. Whatever about the importance of these linkages with European colleagues, which are vital and all to the good, the work has to be done here at home if we are to get to get to grips with this problem. I would like a further and more extended discussion with the Minister on these issues in due course.


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