PRESS RELEASE: 6 June 2008
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) welcomes the criminalisation of trafficking in the new Criminal Law Trafficking in Persons Act 2008, which comes into effect tomorrow, however MRCI is concerned that it will make little real difference to victims of trafficking for forced labour. Until a comprehensive and transparent system of identification, protections and supports is put in place, victims of trafficking for forced labour will not come forward and there will be no successful prosecutions.
A US State Department report published this week has identified trafficking as a real problem in Ireland. However according to the MRCI, there are currently no appropriate supports for people who are victims of trafficking for forced labour, and interim measures are badly needed.
According to Edel McGinley of the MRCI, “people who have been trafficked generally become homeless, are unwell, and are very afraid. Recently a woman we were supporting who had just exited a situation where she was in forced labour, collapsed in our offices due to extreme stress and had to be hospitalised. She is afraid of being deported, and both she and her family in her home country are being threatened, and we have no clear answers to give her.”
Support workers have to secure emergency accommodation, counselling health referrals, and other supports, which takes time and can be very problematic especially when the person has become undocumented. MRCI considers the 45-day recovery and reflection period proposed in upcoming Immigration legislation to be too short a period for a trafficked person to access supports, and to recover enough to consider their options, including participating in criminal investigations. According to Ms McGinley, “people need a temporary immigration status that allows them adequate time to access these services, and this should be extendible if necessary.”
Another problem encountered with this form of trafficking is that victims are likely to be classified as undocumented economic migrants, and are in danger of being criminalised. According to Ms McGinley, ‘proper identification is the first barrier we come across in all our forced labour trafficking cases. There is a lot of misunderstanding and confusion around this complex phenomenon, the result being that victims are falling through the cracks.’
The MRCI’s Director, Ms Siobhán O’Donoghue, welcomed the government’s commitment to put in place structures and policies to counter trafficking through the Anti Trafficking Unit, however she raised concerns that this will take time, saying, “in the meantime, victims of trafficking for forced labour face a brick wall. This is particularly urgent as we have had five new cases of forced labour trafficking since February and this is only the tip of the iceberg. We need appropriate supports for these people immediately, and this need to be resourced.
Trafficking In Persons Report 2008, United States State Department, available at: