I welcome this initiative. Anything we can do about the horrendous crime of human trafficking is welcome, particularly because the simple reality is that in Ireland, for a long time, we have not been doing enough on human trafficking. Most victims of human trafficking remain unidentified and unknown. Even when victims come forward there is a gap between people claiming to be victims and those who are formally identified as victims. Then there is a further gap between people who are identified as victims and prosecution of those responsible for the trafficking that victimised them. We simply are not doing enough. That is highlighted every year by the Trafficking in Persons, TIP, report and by NGOs that say we are not doing enough.
While I welcome that we are trying to upgrade and improve the EU anti-trafficking directive, I point out the judgment in the case of P v. Chief Superintendent of the Garda National Immigration Bureau & Ors. Ms Justice O’Malley was very clear in 2015 that the State had failed at that point to properly enact the directive as it stood at the time and that the State was not vindicating the rights of victims under the directive. Improving the directive is very welcome but we need to do more in this area. I welcome the work the Minister of State has been doing and the commitment to a new national referral mechanism, the proposal for which is currently going through pre-legislative scrutiny at the Joint Committee on Justice. We need to focus on victims. While the legislation updating the national referral mechanism is very important and this directive will be very important, if we do not support victims once they are identified, we will again be failing to vindicate the basic rights of people who have already had their rights trampled on or stolen from them.
We are also creating a situation where people are less likely to come forward. If we want to identify victims and, through that, identify perpetrators of human trafficking, we need to do all we can to support that. While I commend the motion and the upgrading of the anti-trafficking directive, that remains a bit of a lacuna and something on which we need to step up.
I am heartened that EU-wide collection of data is contained in the directive. It is worth pointing out that this is essential for a variety of reasons, the first of which is to enable us to fully understand this problem. Through fully understanding it, we can fully identify it. EU-wide data collection will also be useful in providing a proper benchmark to show whether we are succeeding and how Ireland is addressing the issue. As I said, Government after Government have consistently failed to address this topic. It is highlighted every year by the US State Department in its TIP reports but having European Union figures to show our success or otherwise will be essential in highlighting where we are doing enough or, unfortunately, not doing enough.
This upgraded directive is a very important step for us to take. However, given our history in this area since the previous directive, if we do not properly implement the directive in our legislation, we will, as Ms Justice O’Malley pointed out in 2015, continue to deny the basis rights of victims of trafficking, who have already had their rights stolen. I commend this initiative but I also hope we will not rest on our laurels and we will do more than simply support this directive.