A law that the Government says will strengthen measures to tackle people-smuggling has completed all stages in the Oireachtas, and is now expected to be signed into law by the President.
The Department of Justice says that the Criminal Justice (Smuggling of Persons) Bill covers a broader range of scenarios, and has a wider geographical range, than existing legislation.
It replaces most aspects of the Illegal Immigrants (Trafficking) Act 2000.
James Browne (Minister of State at the Department of Justice, pictured) said that the existing smuggling offence was difficult to prosecute, as it effectively required the prosecution to prove that the defendant acted for gain.
“As this gain will typically occur outside the State, this has often been impossible,” he added.
The new offence covers intentionally assisting entry, transit or presence, where the person knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, that it is in breach of the provisions of immigration law.
While the existing offence is limited to facilitating entry into the State, the new legislation covers smuggling into other countries – including EU member states, and parties to the UN protocol against people-smuggling.
The department has stressed that the bill “ensures that a full defence is in place to protect those acting for genuine humanitarian purposes, and not for gain, or on behalf of bona fide humanitarian organisations”.
Browne had previously ruled out accepting amendments proposed by Independent TD Catherine Connolly, which would have exempted NGOs from prosecution under the law.