The 2019 Trafficking in Persons report, published today (Thursday 20th June) by the US Department of State, has highlighted serious and widespread issues with the identification and treatment of victims of trafficking in Ireland. Ireland was downgraded to a Tier 2* country last year and remains at that level.
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) Director Edel McGinley said, “Ireland’s Tier 2 status is a damning indictment of Government inaction on trafficking. We are failing victims and allowing exploitation to thrive across Ireland.”
The report identified problems in several areas, highlighting the lack of convictions for trafficking; chronic deficiencies in victim identification, referral, and assistance; and the lack of adequate supports for victims. It notes that victims of forced labour have been identified in Ireland in domestic work, the restaurant industry, waste management, fishing, agriculture, and car washing services.
It also notes that although Gardaí conducted 70 reviews of cannabis production cases for possible trafficking indicators, they did not identify any victims or overturn any prosecutions as a result of these reviews.
Edel McGinley stated, “It is very hard to believe that no victims could be identified among those who have been sent to jail for cannabis cultivation. Questions need to be asked about the level of training and experience of the Gardaí who reviewed the cases. We’re talking about people incarcerated for crimes they were potentially forced to commit; this is a matter of the utmost severity.”
The report echoes recommendations made by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and other Irish and international NGOs, including:
- protecting victims from prosecution for crimes they were forced to commit by traffickers
- improving access to compensation for victims
- ending joint workplace inspections by labour inspectors and immigration authorities, which intimidates undocumented potential victims
Edel McGinley said, “The recommendations are highly pragmatic and achievable – there is no good reason not to implement them immediately. This requires strong and decisive leadership from the Minister for Justice.”
She continued, “Access to compensation is vital – the courts have granted awards and back pay in the tens of thousands to people we’ve worked with, but many employers have simply refused to pay up. Ireland has no effective way to enforce payment, and so their victims haven’t seen a single euro in compensation. It takes huge courage for someone who has been the victim of labour exploitation to go through the courts; the very least we can do is ensure they get the money to which they’re entitled. ”
Edel McGinley concluded, “Creating a firewall between labour inspectors and immigration authorities would make everyone safer. Currently, labour inspectors and immigration authorities go into workplaces together, meaning that undocumented workers – including victims of trafficking, forced labour and exploitation – are too fearful to report violations and abuse. “
Aoife Murphy email@example.com
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) is a national organisation which has worked on issues of trafficking and forced labour in Ireland for over a decade.
The MRCI is holding a seminar in Croke Park tomorrow (Friday 21st June) on the issue of access to compensation for victims. Further details at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/seminar-on-access-to-compensation-for-victims-of-trafficking-tickets-62439031825
Some key recommendations from the report:
- Increase efforts to identify and protect all victims, especially of labor trafficking and forced criminality, and stop joint inspections between labor inspectors and immigration authorities, which pose a barrier to identification of victims.
- Adopt a legal provision to exempt victims from inappropriate penalization for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit.
- Amend the atypical working scheme for sea fishers to reduce their risk of labor trafficking.
- Increase access for victims to compensation, particularly for those involved in sex trafficking.
*Definition of Tier 2 from the report
Tier 2 Countries whose governments do not fully meet the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.