Press Centre

MRCI Welcomes Long-Awaited Criminalisation of Forced Labour in Ireland

Fauziah Shaari, Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG)

MEDIA RELEASE 16.04.2013

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) today welcomed the publication of the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013. The Bill will at last criminalise forced labour (modern-day slavery) in Ireland and protect victims who have been forced to commit begging and other criminal activities, provisions for which MRCI has long campaigned.

Gráinne O’Toole of MRCI stated, “Over the past 6 years, MRCI has seen over 180 cases of forced labour in Ireland. 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.

We have seen cases where victims have been forced to commit criminal activity – such as working in cannabis farms – and are then charged with the offence while the real perpetrator, their employer, walks free. When this Bill is enacted, forced labour will at long last be illegal in Ireland and the authorities will be able to target the real criminals.””

Fauziah Shaari, who was a victim of forced labour in a private home in Ireland, stated “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 finished, “We look forward to the enactment of the law and to its full implementation. The criminalisation of forced labour 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.”

ENDS

Background Information:

Department of Justice press release, 16.04.13: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR13000135

Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/humanTraffickingBill2012

Forced Labour in Ireland:

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 180 cases of forced labour over the last 6 years, including the headline case of Mohammed Younis.

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.

Children and adults are trafficked across Europe for forced labour in cannabis factories. They are moved, usually by criminal networks, across borders and/or within European countries and made to work in cannabis farms set up in commercial or industrial properties, or private residential dwellings. Those forced to work in cannabis factories are often made to live in them. The use of physical violence or threats of violence are common in order to ensure compliance and to prevent the victim from attempting to escape. In 2012, 500 cannabis farms were discovered in Ireland and approximately 500 people were charged with cannabis cultivation.

More information: http://www.mrci.ie/our-work/forced-labour-trafficking/