Press Centre

New Figures Show Exploitation of Migrant Workers Remains Major Problem, Particularly in Certain Employment Sectors

PRESS RELEASE: 11 June 2007

Figures from Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI)’s Annual Report launched today reveal that workplace exploitation continues to be a major issue among migrant workers who access support from MRCI’s Drop In Centre.  In 2006 MRCI assisted close to 4,000 migrant workers, who sought support on a wide variety of problems including workplace exploitation. According to data in this period there was a direct correlation between employment sector and levels of exploitation. Agriculture, domestic work and hotel and catering showed the highest levels of exploitation.

Last year 1,000 migrants entered the country legally on a work permit, and one quarter had become undocumented by the time they sought the support of the MRCI. More than 60% of all those who lost their legal status had experienced exploitation.  In addition, the largest shares of migrant workers becoming undocumented were in the same three sectors showing the highest levels of exploitation.

In response to the high levels of exploitation MRCI has facilitated the ongoing development of three support groups for domestic workers, agricultural workers, and restaurant workers. These groups provide a space for migrant workers to come together, share their experiences and take action with the aim of challenging workplace exploitation in their sectors. Ludmila Siarheichyk, a member of the Agricultural Workers Support Group, explains ‘If I did not know about the MRCI I would not have told anyone about the problems in my job. Without MRCI’s help and support from other members of the group I would never have had the courage to bring an official complaint against my employer.”  According to Rajat Bhatnagar, a member of the recently-established Restaurant Workers Support Group, “as a migrant worker in the restaurant sector, I can tell you that the amount of exploitation and mistreatment out there is exorbitant, inordinate and widespread. Our group is trying to tackle it by providing support, raising awareness and motivating workers to come together and fight against it.”

MRCI’s figures show that there is a large number of vulnerable migrant workers experiencing exploitation and other related problems in specific sectors, who need the vital support of organisations in order to challenge this exploitation.  According to MRCI’s Acting Director Jacqueline Healy, “it is vital that the new government put tackling workplace exploitation high on their agenda, and ensure they engage with and resource organisations like MRCI who work directly with migrant workers, if exploitation is to be tackled effectively.”