Bill Altered To Tackle Human Trafficking

Justice Minister Brian Lenihan has tinkered with controversial laws being proposed on immigration to avoid a major political row over human trafficking.

The forthcoming Immigration Bill will now include clauses dealing with victims of human trafficking for the very first time — including offering them anonymity in court, an unprecedented move in Ireland.

It emerged that the Department of Justice changed the text within recent weeks after immigration pressure groups criticised the proposed legislation.

Last week’s Trafficking Bill provided a legal definition of human trafficking for the first time in Ireland.

But campaigners say that bill did nothing to deal with the fact that those who are trafficked can still be jailed or deported.

The pressure rose again yesterday when a NUI Galway report highlighted the case of a trafficked woman being picked up by gardai and sent to Mountjoy jail.

Amnesty International called the current grey area a “grievous human rights issue” and Fine Gael said the Government was in danger of “criminalising the victims themselves”.

Fine Gael immigration spokesman Denis Naughten said he had not seen any mention of trafficking in the Immigration Bill.

And a spokeswoman for the Migrants Right Centre Ireland (MRCI) said: “We have seen the bill before and there was no mention of it then.

“I think some of the minister’s own people will be surprised by this turnaround.”

A spokesman for the Department of Justice last night confirmed that the clauses on trafficking have been added to the Immigration Bill recently, but said that previous copies were just early drafts.