Ireland named as major route for child trafficking
Tuesday September 04 2007
IRELAND has been pinpointed as a major route for trafficking children doomed to a life of slavery or prostitution in Britain.
An official report from the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) explicitly names Ireland as a route for bringing illicit human cargo into the UK.
It comes after garda and immigration authorities said there was no major problem, in the wake of a BBC documentary where a suspect admitted to smuggling children through Rosslare port. The government document, to be published online today, was designed for children's agencies across Wales.
The report says that traffickers are finding the “classic” routes into Britain — ferries from France or through the larger London airports — increasingly difficult to get through due to heightened security. So they are now looking to other points of entry, with the Ireland-Wales ferry links a major alternative. The Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland last night said it believes the law gives Ireland a “soft touch” image for traffickers.
“The lack of legislation in Ireland allows this to continue,” a spokeswoman said of the growing problem.
She said that victims often remain unseen, making officials unaware of the scale of trafficking through Ireland.
“If there is no protection, then no one comes forward. Trafficked people can become criminalised,” she said.
Last night, a spokesperson for the Justice Minister said while the Government did not believe Ireland had a substantial human trafficking problem, it was putting in place “robust measures to ensure that the State can comprehensively deal with it”.
But Simon Coveney, Fine Gael TD for Cork South Central, said the Government had been aware of the problem for at least 18 months.
“When you get reports from other governments naming Ireland in this context then something urgently needs to be done,” he said.
Human trafficking is a growing problem in the EU with more than 100,000 people trafficked across its borders each year.
Since 2004, 330 children are known to have been trafficked into the UK through various routes but experts feel this is only the tip of the iceberg.
This crime is a “modern-day form of slavery” according to the WAG report, “Safeguarding Children Who May Have Been Trafficked”. A summary document states, “an increasing trend is for children to arrive via smaller airports or in Wales by ferry from Ireland”.
Campaigners have backed up the WAG report and said while the Government here is moving to tighten up legislation, it is acting far too slowly. UK Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre told the Irish Independent there was “relatively strong” suggestions of trafficked children coming through seaports in west Wales.
It added that an increasing trend of children entering from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland had been noted.
Paul Stanley of international group Stop the Traffik, said: “Two hundred years ago there were slave ships but at least everyone knew what those slave ships were and what they were doing. Now a trafficked child could be sitting next to you on a commercial ferry crossing or flight and you would have no idea. Traffickers will always find the weakest link. In Ireland, they have discovered one of the easiest ways into the UK.”