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Protection of Children must be prioritised in Human Trafficking Bill

16 April, 2008

Following the conviction of a Nigerian woman in Britain for smuggling a baby into the country to secure social welfare benefits Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has today urged government to extend the definition of trafficking in the (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007 so as to ensure the full protection and rights of vulnerable children.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"When the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill 2007 was first published Sinn Féin outlined its concern to the Justice Committee regarding the definition of trafficking as I believed it fell far short of what is required to substantially tackle eradicate the problem and did not give full protection to children.

"The Bill as currently drafted makes it an offence to traffick for the purpose of labour exploitation, sexual exploitation and organs yet there is no mention of children who may be trafficked for other purposes including benefit fraud.

"Sinn Féin tabled an amendment aimed at extending the definition of trafficking in order to close this gap.

"When the Bill was initially presented the government dismissed Sinn Féin's amendment out of hand. At the next stage of the Bill the Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan said he would give it further consideration. However despite this encouraging indication from the Minister government has recklessly decided to restrict Ireland's new legislation to a minimalist definition of human trafficking.

"However the recent conviction of a Nigerian woman in Britain for illegally bringing a baby into the country in an effort to secure social welfare benefits reinforces Sinn Féin's analysis of the Bill, and evidences the need for a broader definition of trafficking. Senior detectives in Britain have stated that they fear that thousands of children are being smuggled into Britain for benefit fraud and have admitted privately that trafficking legislation is not working. This failure has partly been attributed to poorly-worded legislation. This reinforces Sinn Féin's argument that the definition must immediately and before it is too late be amended to include the trafficking of children for other purposes including benefit fraud.

"It is my firm belief that good legislators anticipate gaps and loopholes. There is still time for the government to accept Sinn Féin's amendments and make the necessary changes to the Bill prior to its enactment." CRÍOCH

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