New EU rules will help uncover the true extent of human trafficking in Ireland – MEP Walsh 

New rules introduced by the European Parliament will be instrumental in revealing the true extent of the silent industry of human trafficking in Ireland, according to Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh. 

MEP Walsh was amongst a group of MEPs that wrote the Revision to the EU’s Anti-Trafficking Directive aimed at strengthening protections for victims of trafficking. 

MEP Maria Walsh, the only Irish MEP involved in the Revision, said:

“The changes that we introduced in the European Parliament will go a long way in tackling the silent but lucrative industry of human trafficking in Ireland. While some may consider it a problem foreign to our shores, it’s estimated that over 3,000 people are trafficked in and out of Ireland annually. 

“From my work with NGOs, I know that organisations are also seeing vulnerable children falling victim to drug trafficking. However, due to our poor standard of reporting, the true extent of the issue is not fully known.

“Under the new rules, Ireland will now be obliged to collect data on trafficking to provide the European Commission with full reports on an annual basis. This should uncover the truth behind one of Ireland’s hidden crimes.

The changes also mean that mandatory training for professionals who come into contact with victims of human trafficking will be introduced. Irish court staff, social service professionals and healthcare workers will all have to undergo training aimed at enabling them to identify, help and protect victims. Some organisations are already working with MECPATHS, but this training will now become obligatory. 

“The exploitation of surrogacy, forced marriage and illegal adoption will now all fall under the definition of trafficking. It is highly important to note that this does not include surrogacy in all forms. Legislation is currently progressing through the Oireachtas to support ethical surrogacy, thanks to tireless work by campaigners, including by my Fine Gael colleague Senator Mary Seery Kearney.”

Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery Kearney said:

“I welcome the agreement of the wording of the human trafficking directive. All families founded upon surrogacy want the women who graciously carry their precious babies protected from any form of exploitation and those who seek to exploit them should be exposed to the full rigours of criminal law.  

“A framework for ethical surrogacy, that protects the rights of all parties within a surrogacy arrangement, is currently working its way through the legislative process in Ireland. This is the way to ensure that children born via surrogacy are assured of all of their human rights, surrogates are protected throughout the process and parents have a pathway to have their parenthood recognised in law.”