The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has said legislation to make the trafficking of human beings illegal is being prepared by the Minister for Justice.

The issue was raised in the Dáil by Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins, who referred to last night's Prime Time programme on the subject, and said there was no law against what he called 'this despicable practice'.

Mr Ahern said that assault, sexual assault and false imprisonment were already against the law, but that the Mr McDowell was preparing legislation to bring Ireland into line with EU directives.

He also said that gardaí had already been targeting some of the gangs involved and had convicted some of them.