New Government must honour commitments in first 100 days

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

The new Government must hit the ground running and deliver on promises already made to men, women and children fleeing war, people smugglers and human traffickers, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The Council says the delays caused by months of political uncertainty must be ended by honouring promises to accept 4,000 refugees into Ireland and restarting the Sexual Offences Bill with its measures to combat sex trafficking.

The Immigrant Council says by acting swiftly the Government can reassure those targeted by war-mongers, smugglers and traffickers that they have at least one ally in Europe.

Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland added:

“Now that it’s back to business for Irish politics it is time for uncertainty and delays to be replaced by action. As a frontline service provider and Independent Law Centre we are calling for a number of long-standing political promises to be delivered in the first 100 days.

  • Set out a firm timeline for the arrival of 4,000 refugees into Ireland as announced on the steps of Government Buildings last September
  • Use Ireland’s voice at the EU and UN to demand legal avenues for those fleeing war and terror to reach safety and put humanitarian needs back on the top of the agenda
  • Immediately recommence the stalled Sexual Offences Bill and its measures to crush demand for sex trafficking and a range of other crimes

The lack of political leadership and commitment to address these issues has gone on far too long. The Government now has an opportunity to fill that void and show Ireland is a country which will again offer hope and solidarity to some of the most vulnerable people on the planet.”

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Sex trafficking findings highlight urgent need for stalled sex crimes bill

Countries with legalised prostitution are hubs for evil trade

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

The urgent need for the next Government to prioritise stalled sex crime laws has been underlined by a Human Trafficking Situation Report from Europol confirming the scale of sex trafficking across the EU, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland. (See Note to Editors)

The Council says the Government cannot ignore the findings showing that organised criminal gangs are running huge sexual exploitation rings and are using countries with legalised prostitution, such as Austria and the Netherlands, as transit hubs to reach Ireland.

The Immigrant Council says there is no time to waste after the election in restarting the Sexual Offences Bill with measures against online grooming, the abuse of victims of human trafficking and sex buyer laws.

Nusha Yonkova, Anti Trafficking Manager with the Immigrant Council of Ireland:

“The Europol Situation Report echoes the experience of the women we are supporting as a frontline service and Independent Law Centre.

The size and range of the sex trafficking networks, the links with organised crime and the role of demand in feeding this huge criminal enterprise are laid bare and cannot be ignored.

There are also lessons for Ireland with the report making clear that human traffickers are exploiting those countries which have legalised prostitution – with Austria identified as a major transport hub while Dutch women are joining Eastern European States and Nigeria on the list of nationalities most exploited.

The Europol findings together with the overwhelming international body of evidence showing pimps, traffickers and thugs run prostitution must lead to a number of immediate actions

  • The stalled Sexual Offences Bill must be restarted by the next Government
  • The long promised National Action Plan on Human Trafficking must be published
  • Our procedures for identifying and assisting victims, which have been internationally criticised, must be reformed
  • Awareness campaigns should be launched highlighting that human trafficking is a brutal, violent and abusive criminal enterprise which can only be shut down by following the money

The Immigrant Council of Ireland is committed to working with the members of the next Oireachtas to ensure these actions are taken and that our communities will not be seen as soft targets for organised crime.

Note: The Europol Situation Report can be accessed at https://ec.europa.eu/anti-trafficking/sites/antitrafficking/files/situational_report_trafficking_in_human_beings-_europol.pdf

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UN highlights urgent need for new Government to enact Sex Crimes Bill to protect children

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

The newly elected Government must prioritise the passing of the Sex Crimes Bill as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child highlights shortfalls in Ireland’s response to child prostitution and human trafficking, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The Council is calling for all political parties to commit to turning the bill into law after its progress was halted by the calling of the General Election.

The Immigrant Council also wants the new Government to respond to criticism of the treatment of children within the immigration and asylum system and to introduce a National Action Plan to combat racism.

Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council said:

“The conclusions of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child are timely given that after years of political, media and public debate the sex crimes bill has been left hanging in limbo with the calling of the election.

The Committee wants Ireland to beef up its commitment to protect children by signing international protocols on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography – all of which are addressed in the bill.

We are calling on political parties to commit now to ensuring that this long awaited and necessary legislation becomes a reality in the early weeks of the next Oireachtas.”

Catherine Cosgrave, Legal Services Manager with the Immigrant Council added:

“The Committees concerns about the treatment of children within our immigration and asylum systems are urgent – in particular in light of the current crisis and reports of thousands of children separated from their loved ones as they flee war and terror.

All children, no matter what their immigration status, must be treated the same by the State in terms of access to support services.

The UNCRC has also echoed calls by the Immigrant Council of Ireland for vulnerable children, including those trafficked or caught up in irregular immigration to be granted full and early access to legal representation.

In the coming weeks we will continue to study the recommendations and look forward to working with the new Oireachtas to ensure Ireland is a country where all children are treated equally.”

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Sex Crimes Bill represents a blueprint for new Government

Sex Crimes Bill represents a blueprint for new Government

“Huge political progress of recent months must be built upon when

Justice Minister appointed”

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

The huge political support for the Sex Crimes Bill shown in both the Seanad and Dáil has laid a solid foundation for Ireland to join the list of countries targeting demand for sex trafficking and prostitution, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The Council says it is clear that the debate on how to end prostitution and sex trafficking has changed for ever with politicians accepting the overwhelming evidence that sex buyer laws work.

The Immigrant Council, one of the 73-organisations which make up the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign, says it will work in cooperation with any newly elected Government and Minister for Justice to ensure the momentum of recent months is not lost.

Denise Charlton, Anti Trafficking Expert with the Immigrant Council added:

“While there is understandable disappointment that the clock has run out on passing the Sexual Offences Bill before the calling of the General Election, campaigners can be proud of what has been achieved.

Turn Off the Red Light groups represent every part of Irish life – all coming together to stand in solidarity with survivors of prostitution and sex trafficking to demand change.

Through our efforts all major parties, in Government and in opposition, together with large numbers of independent politicians, heard our call and accepted our evidence based arguments.

This election may change the political landscape – but it will not change the evidence we have placed before the Oireachtas nor will it impact on the criminal empires running prostitution in this country.

It is for that reason that the Immigrant Council and its partners are ready to work with all elected to office in the coming weeks to turn the bill into law and offer hope to those trapped in lives of exploitation, abuse and violence.”

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Pimps just one step from bankruptcy as Seanad passes Sex Crimes Bill

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

Pimps, sex-traffickers and thugs are just one step away from seeing their criminal empires crumble with Senators passing the Sex Crimes Bill, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The Council says the measures in the bill to combat child grooming, online sexual offences and demand for prostitution and sex trafficking are now ‘achievable’ following the Seanad decision.

The bill must now go to the Dáil but the Immigrant Council says if the political will continues then it could be passed before the General Election is called.

Denise Charlton, Anti Trafficking Expert with the Immigrant Council of Ireland added:

“The passing of the bill in the Seanad – including sex buyer laws – shows that the debate around prostitution, sex trafficking and organised crime in Ireland has changed forever.

Senators accept the overwhelming evidence that those who buy sex are fuelling criminal empires which trample over the rights of women and girls. Now we are on course to wreck the business model which allowed this evil trade to flourish.

We are calling on the political consensus achieved in the Seanad and previously in the Oireachtas Justice Committee to continue into the Dáil and for every effort to be made to make this bill a reality.”

Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland added:

“Through the Turn Off the Red Light campaign every section of Irish society spoke out and demanded these laws – today is a victory for all who campaigned but in particular the brave survivors of prostitution who agreed to share their experiences in order to inform public opinion.

We owe it to those survivors and the more than 70 victims of sex-trafficking supported by the Immigrant Council to continue our efforts and ensure the Dáil acts swiftly to make these laws a reality.”

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Lobbying to Save Lives

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

Ireland’s response to the refugee crisis, measures to combat human trafficking and recommendations to protect vulnerable migrants are the main political demands by the Immigrant Council of Ireland as it makes its first return under new lobbying laws.

The Council is confirming that since last September it has been in contact with every TD and Senator, including direct meetings with the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice to advance its goals.

Making its return which will be published online at www.lobbying.ie the Council confirmed that its advocacy work was driven by the experiences of men, women and children using its frontline and legal services.

As the return was lodged Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland added:

“The Immigrant Council of Ireland is proud to have taken a lead in bringing the issues which directly impact on migrants and their families directly to the corridors of power.

As well as operating our frontline services we have been actively engaged at Leinster House highlighting the needs of the most vulnerable, including people fleeing war and terror, those targeted by sex trafficking gangs and those in need of immediate shelter.

Since September we have been fortunate to have the opportunity to bring our calls directly to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice.

Our efforts have paid off:  The life-saving mission of our navy on the high seas has been extended,  thousands of refugees will be welcomed instead of hundreds and major steps have been taken  towards the introduction of sex buyer laws which will put pimps, traffickers and thugs out of business.

As the country prepares for an election the Immigrant Council will again be at the forefront of public, political and media debate and will be using every opportunity to advance policies and laws which will protect the vulnerable and ensure Ireland will have a humanitarian response to a humanitarian crisis.”

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Sex buyer laws could be reality before Election – Seanad passes latest stage

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

Sex buyer laws which would wreck the business model for organised crime gangs running Irish prostitution could be a reality before the election is called after Senators (14th Jan 2016) cleared the latest stage of the legislation, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The Council is calling on all politicians to listen to survivors, every frontline agency supporting victims of sex trafficking and the 73 Irish organisations of the Turn Off the Red Light Campaign and pass the Sex Crimes Bill as a matter of urgency.

Denise Charlton, Anti Trafficking Expert with the Immigrant Council added:

“With the passing of Committee Stage of the Sex Offences Bill there remains the real prospect that Ireland will join the international trend of targeting those whose actions are fuelling organised crime – in other words the buyers of sex.

In the remaining parliamentary time we are calling on all politicians to seize this opportunity to remove pimps, traffickers and thugs from our communities by joining Northern Ireland and countries from Sweden to Canada which are shutting this exploitative, abusive and violent criminal enterprise at source.”

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#UpholdingRights of Victims of Human Trafficking

Remarks by John Cunningham,

Chair of the Immigrant Council of Ireland

To open Upholding Rights: Early Legal Intervention for victims of human trafficking

Thursday 14th January 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, partners, invited guests, members of the Oireachtas, representatives of the Garda Commissioner and the Department of Justice -  as Chair of the Immigrant Council of Ireland it is my pleasure to welcome you to this important and timely conference, ‘Upholding Rights: Early Legal Intervention for victims of human trafficking’.

It is an honour for us to host a gathering of some of the greatest legal minds in the area of human trafficking not just from Ireland but from across the continent.

The Immigrant Council is proud to have lead the ELI project over the past two-years and at the outset it is important to acknowledge the dedication, time and effort given by each and every one of our partners.

As frontline agencies we have come together to achieve our common goal of ensuring that men, women and children trafficked into our communities for the purposes of sexual or labour exploitation are offered protection, support and hope.

We all know at first hand that too often those vulnerable people who have been targeted by traffickers are treated like criminals rather than offered the support they are entitled too.

At the Immigrant Council of Ireland we know this only too well – with figures we released earlier this week confirming that 31 women trafficked for sexual exploitation sought our support in the past year.

The barriers each faced include immigration issues, safe and secure accommodation and even criminal charges – often while their pimps and traffickers escape justice.

Clearly something is wrong.

Later today the ELI toolkit will be published – it sets out best practice to try and ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated in individual countries and across Europe.

You have all been circulated with our list of speakers – including UK Independent Anti- Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland OBE, Human Rights Barrister and Trafficking in Persons Hero 2015 Parosha Chandran, our dear friend Siobhan Mullally of the Council of Europe and UCC, former UN special Advisor Asohe Aghatise to name just a few.

I have also mentioned that we have strong representation of both the Gardaí and the Department of Justice here today – this is partularly welcome because it is only through a partnership approach with police and the agencies of the State that we will achieve real change.

I welcome the strong interest the Irish Government has shown in our work as both a frontline agency and Independent Law Centre.

As a frontline agency we had input into the National Action Plan on Human Trafficking while at lunchtime today the debate on the Sexual Offences Bill – including sex buyer laws – resumes in the Seanad – with full Government support.

Lets hope after all our efforts the laws are a reality before the General Election is called.

As you commence your high-level and legal discussions I will leave you with one very important note and that is the reminder that at the very heart of this crisis are men, women and children whose rights are being trampled over by thugs.

In the city where we are meeting there are teens being raped in brothels, there are people being trapped in servitude in some of the best heeled addresses while those behind our drugs trade are involved in what can only be called modern day slavery in cannabis farms.

Combatting this abuse – protecting the innocent and jailing the guilty – must be the focus of everything we do.

Can I wish you all a very successful day ahead.

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Sex Crimes Bill must not fall victim to Election Fever as Dáil resumes

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

Laws to combat child grooming, online abuse and sex trafficking must not fall victim to election fever as politicians return to Leinster House today (Wed 13th Jan), according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

The Council is calling on TDs and Senators to commit to the legislative agenda in the remaining weeks before the General Election is called and finally deliver laws which have been debated for five-years.

As a frontline agency and Independent Law Centre which supports victims of sex trafficking the Council is warning that failure to deliver the laws will be a major setback to wrecking the business model for organised criminal gangs running prostitution in Ireland.

Denise Charlton, Anti Trafficking Expert with the Immigrant Council of Ireland said:

“Prostitution is a violent, exploitative and abusive criminal enterprise which can only be disrupted by targeting the money – and Ireland now has the opportunity to do just that.

The Sexual Offences Bill is the result of a full Government review of prostitution laws, an investigation by the Oireachtas Justice Committee and intense debate – all of which concluded that the targeting of the buyers of sex is the best option to end commercial sex abuse.

It is an opportunity to bring our outdated laws into the 21st Century. TDs and Senators can make these urgently needed reforms a reality by prioritising the sex crimes bill this week.

We are asking all politicians to keep the focus on legislation and deliver laws which have the support of 73 Irish organisations of the Turn Off The Red Light Campaign, every frontline agency working with sex trafficked women, survivors of prostitution as well as the European Parliament and Council of Europe.”

Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council said:

“While an outbreak of election fever is beginning to take hold, the reality is that there remains at least three-more sitting weeks in Leinster House where laws can be passed.

The Sex Crimes Bill has been debated at length and its measures are urgently needed, as evidenced by the fact that the Immigrant Council supported 31 victims of sex trafficking in the past year.

We are asking politicians from all sides to commit to act on the calls of the survivors by committing to deliver these laws in the short time remaining.”

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Sex traffickers must be targeted as 31 women seek support in 2015

Major international conference announced for Dublin

Statement by the Immigrant Council of Ireland

Smashing the business model of pimps and sex-traffickers while at the same time protecting and supporting their victims must be the focus of future Irish laws, according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland which is confirming that 31 women sought its frontline services in the past year.

Preliminary figures produced by the Council confirm that the women it supported were trafficked into Ireland from Europe, Africa, Asia and South America.

Laws aimed at protecting and supporting victims will be the focus of a major International Legal Conference which is being hosted by the Immigrant Council in Dublin on Thursday next (14th January).

Confirming the figures, Catherine Cosgrave, Legal Services Manager with the Immigrant Council of Ireland said:

“Of the 31 women who sought the protection and support of our frontline services and independent law centre, 11 were new cases – making the year the second busiest since we started work in this area a decade ago.

Clients need assistance in terms of being officially recognised as a victim of trafficking, immigration and visa issues, asylum applications as well as access to supports to restart their shattered lives.

Above all we must ensure that women and girls removed from the clutches of criminal gangs are not themselves treated as criminals.

With women from four continents seeking our services it is clear that Ireland is a destination country for criminal networks with a global reach and we need laws and procedures in place which will jail the guilty while at the same time ensure that their victims are protected and supported.”

Brian Killoran, Chief Executive of the Immigrant Council of Ireland added:

“These preliminary figures underline once again that sex trafficking is a reality in Ireland which cannot be ignored.

A key moment has arrived in ensuring we have best practice in terms of responding to this crime. In the coming week the Oireachtas will resume its debate on sex buyer laws which will smash the business model allowing organised crime to pocket millions.

Together with every frontline agency working with victims of sex trafficking in Ireland we fully support the laws and again call on the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald TD, to make them a reality before the General Election.

In addition on Thursday we will be welcoming some of the world’s top legal experts on human trafficking to Dublin for our conference ‘Upholding Rights: Early Legal Intervention for Victims of Human Trafficking.’

Speakers will include UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland OBE and Human Rights Barrister and US recognised ‘Trafficking in Persons Hero 2015’ Parosha Chandran.

In 2016 we remain committed to shutting thugs down and ensuring their victims have every opportunity to restart their lives.”

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