Policy Briefing Papers

Forced Labour: The Case for Criminalisation


Forced labour is defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a situation in which a person is deceived into entering work, and cannot leave it without punishment or the threat of punishment. Put simply, it is an extreme form of exploitation. In Ireland, forced labour is dealt with under anti-trafficking law and not as a separate crime. This is a major problem given the inadequacies of this legislation and the near insurmountable difficulties in identifying and securing convictions on trafficking for forced labour. Separate legislation that criminalises forced labour is needed to ensure adequate protection and redress mechanisms for people who have experienced forced labour.

Restrictive migration policies contribute greatly to creating the conditions for forced labour. Greater flexibility in the work permit system is thus also required in particular allowing work permit holders to move freely between jobs in a defined sector, if forced labour is to be tackled adequately. A range of supports are required when exiting forced labour situations, including appropriate secure accommodation, access to health care, psychological care, quality legal advice and employment supports.

Download Pdf