PRESS RELEASE: 11 October 2007
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has welcomed Minister Brian Lenihan’s confirmation at today’s press conference on new anti-trafficking measures that protections for victims will be contained in the forthcoming Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill.
Responding to a question by MRCI’s Acting Director,Jacqueline Healy, regarding protections for all victims of trafficking, the Minister confirmed that such protections would be incorporated in upcoming primary legislation rather than policy statements, in accordance with Ireland’s international human rights obligations.
Ms Healy stated that, “Victims of all forms of trafficking will not come forward unless they can access protections, such as safe accommodation, financial supports, and above all a secure residency status for those who have become undocumented. If the Government is serious about eradicating all forms of trafficking it is vital that protection provisions be included in legislation, and we welcome the Minister’s assurance today that this will be the case. The MRCI hopes that such protections will be made available to all victims of trafficking regardless of their ability or willingness to participate in criminal proceedings”.
MRCI’s caseworkers regularly come across cases of trafficking for forced labour, and while it is impossible to quantify the full extent of the problem they say there is evidence that this phenomenon is happening in a number of sectors including agriculture, domestic work and the construction industry. According to Ms Healy, “people can be subjected to physical and mental abuse, are deceived about their working conditions, are not free to leave, live under constant threat and fear and are heavily indebted. They are also unable to seek legal redress against employers who have exploited their vulnerability”.
MRCI is calling for interim protection measures to be put in place to respond to current cases of people who have been trafficked. “At the moment there are no legal protections for victims of trafficking, especially where they have become undocumented. We depend on the discretion of individual immigration officials when it comes to providing assistance to people, and this ad-hoc arrangement is totally unsatisfactory and cannot continue”.
Case Study on Trafficking for forced labour: Laini’s Story:
In October 2005 Laini was recruited in her locality in southern Africa to come to work as a domestic worker in Ireland. Her airfare was paid for her; however she was given misleading information about what her future job would be like. On arrival in Ireland she was forced to work in very bad conditions. She worked from 6 am to midnight (18 hours), seven days a week. She cared for two children and carried out all the household duties. She worked for six months with this family and received 82 cent per hour for her work. The family abused their position of power, using her vulnerability to exploit her, and she was constantly threatened. They told her that if she didn’t comply with their wishes she would be sent home. Her movements were monitored at all times and she was not allowed to leave the house alone. She was treated as though she belonged to them.
Eventually Laini escaped and made her way to the offices of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (DJELR). She had none of her clothes or belongings, and no identification, as the family had taken her passport. She had an initial interview and was admitted into the asylum process. She was not identified as having been trafficked for forced labour at this stage,or at the second interview stage. As there are currently no protections available for people who have been trafficked, and no formal policy response, it is not clear where victims can seek assistance, and Laini therefore ended up in the asylum process which was not appropriate in her case and did not meet her needs. The case was referred to MRCI and was identified as a case of trafficking for forced labour. MRCI referred her case to the Garda National Immigration Bureau for investigation. MRCI advocated on her behalf with this agency, along with the Refugee Legal Service, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and DJELR. With MRCI advocating on her behalf, Laini was assisted to move out of the asylum process, and to apply fora work permit, which has recently been approved.