Forced Labour & Trafficking

Forced labour is modern-day slavery; a severe form of exploitation involving deception and coercion of workers by unscrupulous employers. It is a growing problem in Ireland and globally. Over the last 6 years MRCI has dealt with some 200 cases – which is only the tip of the iceberg. Forced labour occurs mainly in unregulated low-paid employment such as catering, domestic work, care, construction, agricultural and entertainment sectors.

  • December 2nd 2013: International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

    On Monday December 2nd, we’re marking International Day for the Abolition of Slavery by holding a conference on Identifying Victims of Trafficking for Forced Labour: National and International Perspectives. The conference will bring together victims of trafficking for forced labour, international experts, and national stakeholders to examine how Ireland can improve identification and protection of victims.
    Check out the agenda HERE and email communications@mrci.ie to reserve your place at the conference.


    SOLIDAR SR Awards 2013

    SOLIDAR Silver Rose Award 2013

    Forced labour activist Mohammed Younis and MRCI have been awarded the SOLIDAR Silver Rose Award 2013, recognising our social justice work across Europe. Mohammed said “I’m very honored to receive this award and I’m so privileged to be part of the ongoing collective struggle for rights and social justice.” A special thanks to PICUM CCME and to SOLIDAR, and a very special thanks to all in the Forced Labour Action Group for making this happen.


    Forced labour (modern-day slavery) is now a crime in Ireland

    Campaigners celebrate with TDs

    Due to the tireless efforts of the Forced Labour Action Group (FLAG), a group made up of migrant activists and our many allies, we secured a change in the law – a crucial amendment to the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 which now allows for forced labour to be prosecuted in Ireland.

    This campaign was set up to respond to the need to tackle the chronic abuse and exploitation of workers that MRCI was witnessing. Such cases involve people working every day for long hours for little or no pay, being threatened by their employers, their passports being withheld, living in virtual imprisonment and in fear. FLAG developed a briefing paper with the Irish Congress for Trade Unions (ICTU) on the problem and urgently-needed solutions. We presented this paper to policy makers and legislators. We performed street theatre, staged protests and undertook media work. We also held solidarity meetings with the Trade Union Movement and met with the International Labour Organisation, Irish governmental officials and politicians to inform and lobby for the necessary changes. Our efforts were rewarded when the law criminalising forced labour was passed unanimously by the Dáil on June 28th 2013.


    British Irish Parliamentary Inquiry on human trafficking

    MRCI provided evidence to the Inquiry body that trafficking for forced labour is on the increase in Ireland, but very few victims are identified and protected. To address this problem, a specialist agency should have powers to identify and protect victims of forced labour. The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) are well placed to fill this role. They regularly come in contact with workers employed in poorly-regulated employment sectors and have experience in uncovering exploitative employment situations. With greater powers they would be the best body to undertake this work.

    MRCI also told the Inquiry that there are few rights for victims of trafficking for forced labour. Many victims are left in limbo for many years waiting for their cases to be resolved. Victims’ rights to protection must be made law within the upcoming Immigration, Residency and Protection Bill. This law is urgently needed. Speaking to the media after the event Fauziah Shaari, a victim of trafficking for forced labour in Ireland, stated “I suffered at the hands of my employer. I was treated as a slave. My passport was taken, I was not paid for my work, I was not allowed to go out of the house and I was threatened. I still have not found justice.”


  • The Campaign to Criminalise Forced Labour

    In 2011, MRCI set up the Forced Labour Action Group (FLAG), made up of migrant workers who have suffered forced labour – also known as modern-day slavery. The aim of the group was to campaign for a law against forced labour and a scheme of protections for victims.

    The initiative was established to respond to the chronic abuse of workers that MRCI was witnessing. Such cases involve people working every day and long hours for no pay, being threatened by their employers, their passports being withheld, living in virtual imprisonment and in fear. FLAG developed a briefing paper on the problem and the solutions needed with the Irish Congress for Trade Unions and presented this to policy makers and legislators. We performed street theatre, staged protests and undertook media work. We also held solidarity meetings with the Trade Union Movement and met with the International Labour Organisation, Irish governmental officials and politicians to inform and lobby for the necessary changes.

    The campaign has been very successful: on the 7th of January 2013, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter announced that forced labour would be criminalised in Ireland, through an amendment to the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act. This will ensure victims of forced labour will receive greater protection and employers who commit this criminal act can now be prosecuted.

    The law criminalising forced labour was passed unanimously by the Dáil on June 28th 2013.

    MRCI and FLAG are committed to monitoring the implementation of this law and will continue our campaign to ensure victims get full protection under Irish law.


  • Fauziah Shaari

    Fauziah ShaariI came to Ireland from Malaysia in 2009. I worked as a domestic worker caring for 4 children in a private home. I worked 14 hours per day, seven days a week for less than one euro an hour. My employer did not update my visa and I became undocumented. My movements were restricted and I lost control over my own life. I was not protected by Irish law. I wanted to ensure what happened to me did not happen to others, so I became a leader of the Forced Labour Action Group to campaign for a law against forced labour in Ireland. We have power when we take action together. We shared our stories, met with politicians, talked to the media, protested and explained about the impact of forced labour on victims. Through all our efforts we have won. We can stand proud today.


  • Mohammed Younis

    Mohammed Younis, Action group leaderI came to Ireland to work as a tandoori chef in 2002 on a work permit. I worked long hours, 7 days a week for very low wages. For the first few years I earned 52 cents an hour. My employer failed to renew my work permit and I became undocumented in Ireland. I did not know anyone and I speak very little English. I was treated like a slave by my employer for 7 years. I found out about my rights and I took my employer to court. I am still fighting this as I am owed €92,000 which was awarded to me by the Labour Court. I want to get justice for what happened to me but I want to ensure this does not happen to other workers. We are fighting for undocumented workers to be able to seek their rights through the labour courts and for a law against forced labour. We have organized public events and highlighted these problems with the trade union, politicians and the media to call for a law against modern day slavery.


  • Tina Dio

    Tino Dio, Action group leaderI came to Ireland when I was 17 to work as a domestic worker and to study. I was badly exploited in that I was not paid a wage, I worked every day and I was not given any time off including holidays. For 3 years I lived as a prisoner. I was not allowed to go out on my own, stay in touch with my family, make friends or pursue my studies. I lived in fear of my employer. I was helped by a caller to the house where I was working who put me in touch with MRCI. They helped me build up my life again. I am now studying and working in Ireland. I joined with other workers through FLAG to fight for rights. We are delighted that the government has heard our voices and has decided to criminalise forced labour. I hope this achievement will encourage others not to be afraid to speak out and look for their rights.


  • Waseem Yousaf

    Action group leader Waseem YousafI am an active member of the FLAG. I volunteer with this group as I cannot stand by and watch injustice happen. I support workers to take action together as we are strong when we walk together and fight for rights. We have worked together and supported one another to push for the law against modern-day slavery to be introduced.

    I speak out against this injustice as I have seen the impact of this cruelty on many migrant workers. I want to see workers like Mohammed Younis get justice. We are also lobbying for rights for all workers, regardless of legal status, to take their case to the employment courts when their employment rights are violated. We believe that employers who exploit should not be allowed to walk free. They should pay up and be held to account. I believe all us workers should stand together to ensure that labour standards are upheld for everyone; in this way, we can tackle exploitation in the labour market.


  • RACE in Europe: fighting trafficking for criminal exploitation

    logoChildren and adults are trafficked across Europe for forced criminal activities and forced begging. Traffickers force them to beg in towns and cities and they are forced to commit crimes such as pickpocketing, ATM theft, metal theft and cannabis cultivation.Those trafficked are often treated as criminals. Many end up being prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned for crimes they have been forced to commit, while their traffickers enjoy impunity. In Ireland we are currently seeing a trend of people being trafficked for cannabis cultivation. MRCI are conducting research on this at the moment which will be available shortly.

    The RACE in Europe project, funded by the European Commission and led by Anti-Slavery International in conjunction with MRCI, EXPAT UK,  La Strada Czech Republic, Multicultural Centre Prague, Police Academy of the Netherlands and Vietnamese Mental Health Services to improve knowledge about the nature and scale of trafficking of children and adults for forced criminal exploitation and forced begging.


    Trade unions speak out against forced labour and trafficking

    MRCI and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), together with the Trade Union Federation of Berlin-Brandenburg and victims of slavery in Ireland, held a high-level meeting to discuss the increasing problem of forced labour and trafficking in Irish society. ICTU and affiliates will highlight and publicly oppose forced labour, push for  the rights of undocumented workers to be realised in the reform of employment bodies, and assess how best they can support victims of forced labour, who often require financial help as well as other supports.

    This event was part of a European Commission-funded project, FINE TUNE, which seeks to embed responses to labour trafficking across a range of civil society and statutory organisations. This project is being led by the International Trade Union Confederation in collaboration with MRCI,  Antislavery International, CCME, Caritas, PAM, La Strada, AIDRom, LEFOE & UGT.