Press Centre

Combating Forced Labour In Ireland

PRESS RELEASE: 1 October 2009

Over fifty people including Gardaí, government officials   trade union representatives and several NGOs gathered in Dublin today at a special conference on Forced Labour organised by the Migrant Rights Centre 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.   The aim of the conference was to explore new strategies to combat forced labour in Ireland.

Forced labour is broadly 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, restaurants workers, agricultural workers and as seafarers.

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,” says 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.”

MRCI Forced Labour Case Study*

Asha came to Ireland from Pakistan in March 2008.   She was recruited to work as a child minder in a private home.   When she arrived at the airport her employer confiscated her passport and other personal documents.   She was made to work seven days a week from 8am to 11pm looking after children and also to do all of the cooking, cleaning and other household tasks.  She was not given any breaks or leave.  She was paid less than €20 per week.  Asha’s employers also dictated when and what she could eat.  She was also locked in her room on several occasions by her employers when the family had visitors, and she was never allowed to leave the house on her own.   After three months of these conditions she escaped her employer’s house by jumping out of her bedroom window to avoid detection.   A passerby found her by a LUAS station in a desperate situation and brought her to the Garda Station.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individual concerned.