Press Centre

Dáil Protest to mark International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

PRESS RELEASE: 2 December 2011

Victims of Forced Labour call for laws against Forced Labour

Marking International Day for the Abolition of Slavery MRCI’s Forced Labour Action Group staged a demonstration at the delay of the government in addressing the problem of forced labour.  MRCI is calling on Minister Alan Shatter to recognise forced labour as a crime so that victims can be protected.

Forced labour is an extreme form of exploitation and involves deception, coercion, threats or actual physical harm, and debt bondage.   It is a growing problem in Ireland.  MRCI has delt with 160 cases of forced labour over the last six years.

Gráinne O’ Toole of the MRCI stated, “In a recession forced labour flourishes and becomes harder to detect.

The failure of the state to bring in a law that makes forced labour a crime sends a strong message to employers that treating people as virtual slaves will be tolerated. In effect, it gives employers a green light to exploit workers. A law is needed to break the chain of forced labour in Ireland.”

Anele Jackiel of the MRCI’s Forced Labour Action Group stated,  “I experienced forced labour at the hands of my former employer in Ireland. I am protesting today to show the public what is happening to workers and to ask the government to act. We need a law against forced labour to ensure that victims of forced labour are protected and have the confidence to come forward and report this crime.  Victims are very fearful of coming forward because of the lack of protections in place.”

Muhummad Younis speaking at the event stated, “I have been away from my family for nine years. I put up with abuse and threats from my employer. I have been fighting for justice for the last two years yet the government have not yet heard my plea. I will not stop until the law protects victims of forced labour.

Gráinne O’ Toole added, “The government is in breach of Irish  and international law by failing to put in place a law against forced labour. We call on the Minister Shatter to bring in this law urgently and protect the victims of this heinous crime.


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.