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Ireland may be imprisoning victims of slavery, warns new report on trafficking for cannabis cultivation

Media Release Monday 31st March 2014

New report calls for immediate review of all potential cases of trafficking for slavery in cannabis production to identify and protect victims

Published today as part of a major European project on trafficking for forced labour, the Irish report reveals that there is evidence that vulnerable people may have been trafficked into Ireland and forced to work in cannabis growhouses.

Virginija Petrauskaite, Legal Officer in Migrant Rights Centre Ireland stated, “People have been found malnourished and terrified in houses locked from the outside, yet they were still treated as criminals and given heavy prison sentences. It is of deep concern to us that even where clear indicators of human trafficking are present in cases before the courts, no consideration is being given to the possibility that the person is a victim of trafficking. This report recommends that a multi-agency team of experts assesses all potential cases of trafficking for slavery in cannabis production so that victims can be identified and protect.”

Ms Petrauskaite continued, "Last July, the Government introduced a law to protect victims of human trafficking who have been forced to commit crimes, but to date, this law has not been applied. The Department of Justice and Equality and An Garda Siochána are aware of this problem, yet they have been unable to respond in a comprehensive way. There is a need for an independent rapporteur to combat human trafficking who can identify trends and bring all stakeholders together to implement appropriate responses – and avoid criminalising victims."

Researchers interviewed individuals jailed for cannabis cultivation, solicitors, court reporters, the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit within the Department of Justice and the Human Trafficking Coordination and Investigation Unit within An Garda Siochana, supplementing interviews with an in-depth analysis of media and court reports of cannabis cases to reveal a trend of slavery in cannabis production in Ireland.

The new report was welcomed by international human trafficking expert Klara Skrivankova, Trafficking Programme Coordinator with Anti-Slavery International. Ms Skrivankova said, "I am delighted to see the excellent report by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland published today. It shows significant evidence of human trafficking for cannabis production that needs to be urgently investigated. Punishing victims is not a deterrent and serves no purpose except to allow traffickers to enjoy impunity – as well as the enormous revenues made from exploiting others."

Full Report: Trafficking for Forced Labour in Cannabis Production

Summary Report: Trafficking for Forced Labour in Cannabis Production

NB: A Law Seminar on Slavery in Cannabis Production will be held in Dublin on Monday March 31st at 4.30pm. CPD: 2 hours. For more information please see

Notes to Editor:

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland is the Irish partner in the RACE in Europe project and a national assessment centre for victims of trafficking for forced labour.

The RACE in Europe project is a two-year initiative led by Anti-Slavery International and its partners to improve knowledge about the nature and scale of trafficking of children and adults for forced criminal exploitation and forced begging. The project aims to enhance knowledge and awareness amongst the relevant stakeholders of human trafficking for forced criminal activities and forced begging in Europe, build cross–EU links and strengthen partnerships and train practitioners in three European sub-regions on intervention in such cases.

The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Act 2013 was enacted in July 2013. This new law expands the definition of exploitation include forcing a person to engage in an activity that constitutes an offence and as such acknowledges that victims may be exploited through criminal activities. The Act also defines forced begging as a form of labour exploitation.