Press Centre

Domestic slavery victims need protection, support, and time

MEDIA RELEASE 21 November 2013 

Domestic slavery victims need protection, support, and time

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has welcomed the rescue of three women from alleged domestic servitude in London, and emphasised the need for all victims of slavery to be protected and supported.

Director Siobhán O’Donoghue said the reported details of the women’s situation resembled many of the cases MRCI has dealt with, although the length of time they were held is beyond anything the centre has encountered. “We’ve seen women and men held in domestic servitude, afraid for their lives, threatened, physically and mentally abused, their documents withheld, their movements controlled. This is happening right now in Ireland – a fact the authorities here are often reluctant to believe, which means victims of slavery are often not identified as such.”

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has dealt with almost 200 separate cases of forced labour around the country, a high proportion of which were cases of domestic servitude. Forced labour (the modern term for slavery) was only criminalised in Ireland earlier this year.

“Domestic servitude is by its nature a hidden crime: limited contact with the outside world means victims have no one to turn to.” Ms O’Donoghue continued. “It cuts across all sectors, communities and classes. Modern slavery happens in the most mundane, ordinary households and businesses. People need to know they have rights, no matter what their age, nationality or immigration status.”

MRCI highlighted the need for a Recovery and Reflection period for all victims of slavery, as mandated by the Council of Europe but rarely applied in Ireland. Ms O’Donoghue explained, “Victims are likely to be traumatised and extremely vulnerable; they often need time to adjust and process what they have been through before they can participate in an investigation. Their health, security and wellbeing are paramount, especially in the months immediately following escape.”

Ms O’Donoghue concluded, “So many of the people we work with have been left in limbo by the State. Modern slavery is a growing issue in Ireland and globally, and shocking cases like this highlight the need for vigilance and action.” 


Gráinne O’Toole (Workplace Rights Project Leader, MRCI) 086 8678883

Aoife Murphy (Communications, MRCI) 086 3687901

Criminalisation of forced labour in Ireland, July 2013:

Details of MRCI’s work on Forced Labour and Trafficking:

Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings:

Council Of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) Report - 7th October 2013 - Recommendation CP(2013)9 on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Ireland