Press Centre

Dáil debate on criminalisation of Forced Labour

PRESS RELEASE: 17 January 2012

Modern Day Slavery is still not a crime in Ireland.

Today Aodhán O’ Riordan, TD and Robert Dowds TD, led a Dáil debate on forced labour, otherwise known as modern day slavery and called on Minister Alan Shatter to introduce a law to criminalise forced labour urgently.

Aodhán O Riordan stated “It is intolerable that a Republic such as Ireland does not have a law against modern day slavery. MRCI have recorded 169 cases of forced labour and this is just the tip of the ice berg. Without the law, victims will not be identified and unscrupulous employers will continue to commit forced labour. The need to criminalise forced labour is urgent.”

Robert Dowds spoke passionately of the need to rid Ireland of the shame of allowing forced labour to persist. He spoke of his constituency where he knows of cases of forced labour and the detrimental impact of this crime on victims.

Gráinne O’ Toole of the MRCI stated, “We welcome the fact that the case for a law on forced labour is gaining momentum. We call on Minister Shatter to bring in the law to protect the victims of forced labour without delay. This would send a strong message to unscrupulous employers that this crime will not be tolerated in Ireland.”


Background Information

Forced labour is defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention (No. 29) concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour

"...all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily."

In effect, forced labour is a severe form of exploitation where a worker performs work against their will under threat.

The ILO has developed indicators to detect forced labour as follows:

  • Threats of or actual physical or sexual violence.
  • Restriction of movement and confinement, to the workplace or to a limited area.
  • Debt bondage: where a worker works to pay off debt or loan, and is not paid for his or her services.
  • Withholding of wages, refusing to pay the worker at all or excessive wage reductions.
  • Retention of passports and identity documents.
  • Threat of denunciation to the authorities.

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Convention No. 29(1930) and Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires forced labour be punishable as a criminal offence. There is no law in Ireland that makes forced labour a criminal offence. Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has uncovered 169 cases of forced labour over the last 6 years and this is the tip of the iceberg.