Press Centre

PRESS RELEASE: 19 October 2009

EU Anti Trafficking Day: MRCI Calls for Increased Focus on Combating Forced Labour in Ireland

As Europe marks EU Anti-Trafficking Day, the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) calls on the Minster for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, TD, to step up efforts to combat forced labour in Ireland.  This appeal comes as governments and NGOs from across Europe, including MRCI, gather for an EU Ministerial Conference, Towards Global Action on Trafficking in Human Beings, being held in Brussels today.

Forced labour is defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as a situation in which people enter work or service against their freedom of choice, and cannot leave it without punishment or the threat of punishment.   There are no official statistics for the number of people in Ireland who are, or have been, in situations of forced labour.  At the moment MRCI is involved in assisting over 20 individuals who have been in forced labour situations, most of whom were working as domestic workers in the private home, as restaurants workers, agricultural workers and seafarers.

On 1st October, MRCI organised a special conference to explore new strategies to combat forced labour in Ireland, in conjunction with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and the Anti Human Trafficking Unit of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.  Speaking at the conference, Roger Plant, Head of the ILO’s Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour said, “Forced labour is a growing concern.  Trafficking for sexual exploitation has grabbed most of the attention and headlines in recent times, but trafficking for forced labour is now becoming more recognised and something that we all must combat.”

“We continually come across people in situations of forced labour across Ireland and the public knows nothing about it because it is so hidden,” said Edel McGinley, MRCI Project Leader on Forced Labour.  “There needs to be a concerted effort to recognise and combat this crime in Ireland.   We must ensure that all workers in these situations are protected and that their exploiters are brought to justice.  This type of exploitation is an affront to all workers.”