Press Centre

New legislation will help prevent exploitation of undocumented migrants in Ireland, say campaigners

MRCI work permit campaigners with TDs Ged Nash and Aodhán Ó Riordáin and Senators Ivana Bacik and Jillian van Turnhout

Wednesday July 16th, 2014.

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) tonight welcomed the new Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014, which was passed in the Dáil on the evening of Wednesday July 16th.

Gráinne O'Toole of MRCI stated, "This law will address abuses MRCI has been encountering for many years in a huge variety of sectors. In particular, it closes an egregious loophole in Irish law which has allowed unscrupulous employers to exploit undocumented workers with total impunity."

This loophole was exposed by a 2012 High Court judgment (Hussein v The Labour Court), which overturned a Labour Court decision awarding Mohammed Younis over €92,000 in back pay. The new Employment Permits legislation ensures access to legal redress for undocumented workers so they can take a case in the civil courts against exploitative employers for back wages and compensation.

Mohammed Younis stated, “This is an important moment for workers. I am very happy that this law has been passed.  This will make sure that workers like me will have the opportunity to claim stolen wages back through the courts. All undocumented workers exploited by unscrupulous employers in Ireland will now have their rights vindicated.”

Among other provisions, the legislation will allow undocumented workers who previously held a work permit and became undocumented through no fault of their own – due to exploitation, deception, fraud or lack of knowledge – to get a work permit again.

Olga Dubyna, a workers' rights campaigner with MRCI stated, “We have campaigned for many years for a fairer and more transparent system. If this law was in place when I first came to Ireland, my life would have been very different. This is a life-changing law for vulnerable migrants and I believe that because of it, other workers will not suffer the way I did.”

MRCI expressed some reservations about certain aspects of the new law. Gráinne O'Toole explained, “The new legislation states that information regarding work permit holders can be shared with An Garda Síochána. We believe this is duplication, as information is already shared with the Department of Justice, and we will seek an independent human rights review of this section to ensure that it does not lead to ethnic profiling.”

Ms O’Toole concluded, “All in all, it is progressive legislation and we at MRCI will closely monitor its implementation once it comes into effect on the 1st of September 2014. We will be spending time in the civil courts seeking to secure compensation for stolen wages for the many migrant workers who were affected by the Mohammed Younis judgment. This legislation is undoubtedly crucial and will enable us to tackle the exploitation of migrant workers more effectively.”

NOTES

Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014: http://www.djei.ie/publications/labour/2014/Employment_Permits_Bill_2014.pdf

Employment Permits (Amendment) Bill 2014 Memorandum: http://www.djei.ie/publications/labour/2014/Employment_Permits_Bill_2014_memo.pdf

Details of the Mohammed Younis case (Hussein v The Labour Court):http://humanrights.ie/immigration/irregular-migrant-workers-and-employment-rights-in-ireland/