Press Centre

Minister Ahern must take action to protect victims of trafficking for forced labour

PRESS RELEASE: 18 March 2010

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) today calls on the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, TD, to take serious action to protect the victims trafficking for forced labour.   This call comes on foot of the case of a woman who has been held in prison despite the fact Gardaí were notified over five months ago that she was a potential victim of trafficking for forced labour.

The victim who was being held in prison on a related criminal matter, was finally granted bail today before the High Court after her first attempt for bail in November last year was refused on the basis that the Gardaí had yet to make a decision in relation to her request for protection as a victim of  trafficking for forced labour.  The Gardaí still have yet to make a decision on the matter.

“According to the information that we have regarding her case, she is the victim of trafficking for forced labour,” says Grainne O’Toole, Project Leader with the MRCI.  “The Gardaí were notified of her claim of trafficking for forced labour last October and five months later they have yet to make a decision.  Meanwhile her freedom and liberty were being denied.  She has been through a horrendous experience.”

In Ireland, trafficking cases are referred to the Garda National Immigration Bureau for investigation.  The Gardaí are charged with making a decision whether or not there are reasonable grounds that a person has been trafficked into Ireland.   Where reasonable grounds are determined, victims of trafficking are entitled to receive certain state protections including accommodation, social assistance and legal advice while the case is further investigated.

According to Ms. O’Toole, “MRCI welcomes the decision of Judge Butler to grant bail to the victim and his statements that trafficking offenses should be taken seriously.  We echo his concerns that this case was not being invested by the Gardaí with any great speed.”

Ms. O’Toole says, “MRCI has grave concerns at the State's failure to protect the victims of trafficking in cases like this.   We have been given assurances by the Gardaí, that victims who report the crime of trafficking for forced labour will not be subject to criminal prosecution themselves.   As this case demonstrates, victims are being subjected to criminal prosecution.”