Forced Labour Criminalised By Human Trafficking Act

Forced labour criminalised by Human Trafficking Act

By Carol Coulter
The Irish Times, June 10, 2010

The employers of people coerced into working in restaurants or private homes could face criminal prosecution under the new Human Trafficking Act, a seminar was told yesterday.

Eilis Barry BL told the seminar, organised by the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, that the Act not only criminalises trafficking people by bringing them into the country, but also criminalises forced labour when here.

She pointed out that the Act defines exploitation to mean labour exploitation, sexual exploitation or the removal of a persons organ or organs; and labour exploitation is defined as subjecting a person to forced labour, forcing him or her to provide services to another or subjecting the person to conditions of servitude.

The definition of trafficking includes coercion and threats; deceiving a person or committing a fraud on them or paying another person to move a trafficked person. It includes taking custody of a person or providing them with employment or accommodation.

This was much broader than the traditional concept of trafficking, she said, and the movement or transport of a person was not necessary to commit an offence under the Act. The gravity of the offence was indicated by the fact it carried a sentence up to life imprisonment, she said.

Siobhn ODonoghue, director of the MRCI, said the centre would be working with all relevant authorities to use this analysis to ensure prosecutions are brought for forced labour. 'The problem is the identification of people as victims of forced labour. The identifiers, primarily the garda, need clear, practical guidelines on how to identify a person who is a victim of forced labour,' she told The Irish Times. The areas where most people are forced to work are in restaurants and private homes.

Marion Walsh, director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in the Department of Justice, said Ms Barrys opinion would be brought back to the criminal law specialists in the department, and brought to the attention of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

She said the Criminal Justice (Human Trafficking) Act 2008 analysed by Ms Barry had been drawn up in line with international instruments on forced labour and trafficking. Last year, the authorities identified 66 victims of trafficking, she said, of whom 11 were in the 'recovery and reflection' area provided for in the Act. The remainder were already in the asylum process or EU nationals.

Sen Bamford, of the British TUC, told the seminar the problem of forced labour needed to be tackled through an integrated approach involving employment and immigration law. The offences of forced labour or servitude only came into English law in 2009, he said. Forced labour was defined as being forced to work through threats, deception, fraud, coercion or debt bondage.

Bad immigration law added to peoples vulnerability, especially where it tied migrants to an employer and provided inadequate support for victims, he said.