Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Justice and Equality

Human Trafficking

Patrick Costello (Dublin South Central, Green Party)
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239. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the steps she is taking to review and introduce further regulations to protect workers in the fishing sector in view of an organisation (details supplied) grading the Government an F for the third year running for failing to protect workers in the fishing industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30721/20]

Patrick Costello (Dublin South Central, Green Party)
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240. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to review regulations to protect potential trafficking victims in the fishing sector in view of the downgrading of Ireland to a tier 2 watch list country for not doing enough to combat trafficking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30722/20]

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 239 and 240 together.

I am informed by my colleague the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport that Ireland supports the International Labour Organisation Work in Fishing Convention 2007 (No. 188), which seeks to ensure decent conditions of work in the commercial fishing sector. I am further informed that a provision is to be included in the Merchant Shipping (International Conventions) Bill currently being prepared by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which will enable Ireland to ratify and implement the ILO Work in Fishing Convention.

I understand that secondary legislation is also required in order to facilitate compliance with obligations under the Convention. Furthermore, I also understand that work is at an advanced stage in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on the transposition of EU Directive 2017/159 which will implement the standards of the Convention. The Directive aims to enhance the working and living conditions for fishers working on vessels registered in an EU Member State.

In November 2015, following the publication of claims of possible exploitation of undocumented migrant workers on Irish fishing trawlers in the Guardian newspaper, an interdepartmental Task Force on Non-EEA Workers in the Irish Fishing Industry was established by the Government to examine the specific issues identified in the newspaper report and to make recommendations on appropriate actions.

The Report of the Government Task Force recommended the establishment of a sector-specific Atypical Worker Permission system that would provide a structured and transparent framework for the employment of non-EEA workers within defined segments of the Irish commercial sea-fishing fleet.

The Scheme provided for the first time a framework for the employment of non-EEA workers within defined segments of the Irish fishing fleet. The Scheme sets down minimum terms and conditions of employment applicable to non-EEA fishers which are in line with the general statutory terms and conditions applicable to workers more generally in the State. The Scheme was welcomed as a solution to the risk of exploitation and to guarantee employment rights and protections to non-EEA fishers availing of the Scheme.

This new AWS scheme was not a regularisation of undocumented workers but rather putting in place for the first time a regulatory regime for the employment of non-EEA workers in this sector of the fishing industry. Once introduced, those employers and employees in the fishing industry that remained outside of the scheme would be in breach of immigration and employment law.

The Atypical Working Scheme is administered by the Immigration Service of my Department and its role is limited to providing the immigration elements of the overall solution. Various State bodies with oversight of the sector have roles in the industry in respect of how the industry should operate in respect of employment, health and safety and working conditions.

Applications to the scheme, prepared by a solicitor practising in the State on behalf of the employer, are submitted in the first instance to the Central Depository administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in order to ensure that the contract meets the criteria of the scheme. Thereafter an application is made to Immigration Service for an immigration permission. The Scheme requires that the crew member be provided a copy of their contract of employment in both English and in their native language.

The AWS scheme is monitored by an Oversight Committee chaired by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Any abuses or otherwise of the employment conditions in the Irish fishing industry is a matter for the Workplace Relations Commission, the Marine Survey Office, and other appropriate authorities of the State.

Where an individual believes themselves to be a victim of human trafficking or where another person believes that this situation applies, they should contact An Garda Síochána (AGS), or an NGO or State authority (e.g. WRC) who will be able to refer their case to AGS. AGS will be in a position to take the victim to a place of safety and arrange for immediate accommodation, food and medical needs.

AGS will refer the person’s case to the competent authority for the identification of victims, the Human Trafficking investigation and Coordination Unit (HTICU) of AGS. Where an individual is identified as a suspected victim of human trafficking by HTICU they will be eligible to receive State supports and services, including immigration permission, through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) to assist their recovery.

Patrick Costello (Dublin South Central, Green Party)
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241. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the progress made to improve access to supports for victims of human trafficking; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30723/20]

Photo of Helen McEnteeHelen McEntee (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The Government is fully committed to addressing human trafficking in all forms, including through the provision of supports for victims of human trafficking and by educating the public to recognise the signs of trafficking and be aware that victims of trafficking can be found anywhere and can be hidden in plain sight.

Addressing human trafficking in a holistic manner requires the engagement of various stakeholders and a number of key actions undertaken recently or due to be completed soon in the near future, including -

- The designation of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) as Ireland’s independent National Rapporteur for Anti-Human Trafficking under article 19 of the EU Human Trafficking Directive.

- The commencement of a review of the Criminal Justice (Sexual Offences) Act 2017, which criminalised the purchase of sex as part of a wider approach to protection of persons trafficked into prostitution,

- Engagement by the Department of Justice and Equality with NGOs to identify solutions to the provision of accommodation to victims of trafficking, particularly female victims of sexual exploitation, and in respect of which a further announcement will be made by my colleague the Minister for Children, Disability, Equality, Integration and Youth;

- The establishment of a forum for victims and stakeholders in relation to human trafficking, which has met twice to date, and which will examine the need to update the existing National Action Plan on Human Trafficking, including to respond to the commitment in the Programme for Government to adopt and implement a comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking of women and girls;

- working with the Forum in a review of the National Referral Mechanism in Ireland, learning from best practice models in other EU Member States;

- Drafting legislation to strengthen the penal framework on people smuggling, thereby implementing three international legal instruments in the area and;

- The recent launch of a joint multimedia campaign between the Department of Justice and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to raise public awareness about Human Trafficking. The awareness campaign has two primary objectives;

1.Raising Public Awareness around the existence of Human Trafficking in Ireland and educate them to recognise the signs of trafficking;

2.Raising Awareness of Victim Supports. The campaign will highlight for victims that help is available and how to seek it. In the first instance by contacting An Garda Síochána but also by providing information on how to contact victim support services offered by the state, NGO’s and international organisations.

The Programme for Government contains a commitment to enact legislation that encompasses relevant EU measures and the UN Protocol against the smuggling and trafficking of migrants and to adopt and implement a comprehensive strategy to combat trafficking of women and girls.

The Second National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Human Trafficking was launched in 2016. The Action Plan involves a victim-centred and human rights based approach with the ultimate aims of preventing human trafficking, ensuring an effective criminal justice response and delivery of supports to victims. Great importance is also attached to the work of multilateral international organisations who are active in tackling human trafficking, including the UN, Council of Europe, OSCE and the European Union and Ireland continues to work with all our partners in those forums.

An Garda Síochána has committed significant resources to the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking in Ireland. A specialised Garda Unit, the Human Trafficking Investigation and Co-ordination Unit (HTICU), has been has been in place since 2009 to conduct investigations into human trafficking and provide advice, support and where necessary, operational assistance to investigations at district level. An Garda Síochána is also active in relation to trafficking gangs through work targeting organised crime - targeting their finances, their use of the internet and by working closely with other jurisdictions.

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