MEDIA RELEASE 07.01.2013
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) this evening welcomed the decision of the Irish government to criminalise forced labour (modern-day slavery). A definition of forced labour is to be inserted into Irish law that will ensure victims of forced labour will receive greater protection and employers who commit this criminal act can now be prosecuted.
Gráinne O’Toole of MRCI stated, “The MRCI has campaigned for a number of years for a law to criminalise forced labour. We very much welcome this legal amendment which will clearly set out the criminal act of forced labour. Forced labour is on the increase and without such a law victims of forced labour are not protected. Our experience is that victims will not come forward if there are not clear protections, rights and supports in place.”
Fauziah Shaari, a victim of forced labour, stated, “We have fought hard for the law to be changed. I suffered at the hands of my employer. I was treated as a slave. I still have not found justice. The change in the law will help other victims to come forward and will make sure employers involved in forced labour will be punished.”
Gráinne O’ Toole concluded, “This amendment will bring Irish law in to line with our commitments under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 29 of 1930 on Forced or Compulsory Labour. This sends a strong message to employers that inhuman treatment of workers without respect for their human rights will not be tolerated by the Irish State.”
Forced labour is a growing problem in Ireland. It is an extreme form of exploitation and involves deception, coercion, threats or actual physical harm, and debt bondage. MRCI have dealt with over 179 cases of forced labour over the last 6 years.
People subjected to forced labour and slave-like conditions are not fully recognised as victims of a crime, and the perpetrators of forced labour are not criminalised by the Irish State. When the proposed law is implemented, perpetrators of forced labour could face maximum sentences of up to life imprisonment.