Report finds over 300 ‘living in slavery’ in Ireland

Global slavery index says State is a ‘source’ and ‘transit’ country for victims of trafficking

The global slavery index found that up to 340 people are living in slavery in Ireland.  Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

The global slavery index found that up to 340 people are living in slavery in Ireland. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times


Up to 340 people are living in slavery in Ireland, many of them women trafficked by gangs for sex work and unskilled labour, according to a major international study on slavery.

The global slavery index said Ireland was both a “source” and a “transit” country for victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour and forced criminal activity.

The report, compiled by the anti-slavery charity Walk Free Foundation, ranked 162 countries based on the number living in slavery, the risk of enslavement, and the strength of government responses to combating the illegal activity.

It said there had been incidences of children trafficked here to work in cannabis farms.

There were also cases of children being sexually exploited, and exploited through domestic servitude, benefit fraud, sweatshop or restaurant work, illegal removal of organs, illegal adoption, forced begging and pick-pocketing.

For men and women, incidents of slavery were found in domestic, construction, and agricultural work, as well as labour in the catering and entertainment industries.

The report gave Ireland a ranking of 160th, joint second lowest with the UK in term of pervalence, and eclipsed only by Iceland

It said the majority of slavery victims in Ireland were women who had been trafficked for sexual exploitation.

Women were also found to be working in conditions of bondage as domestic workers, particularly in the homes of foreign diplomats, it said.

Most victims originated from West Africa and some other parts of Africa, with others coming from within the European Union including Ireland itself.

While the report noted some positive aspects to the Government’s policy in relation to slavery and the State’s legislation on human trafficking it suggested an expert national rapporteur should be appointed to oversee and co-ordinate efforts the country’s response to the issue.

In global terms, the report estimated nearly 30 million people were living in some form of bondage across the world.

It found that 10 countries accounted for 76 per cent of the 29.8 million people living in slavery - India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Modern slavery was defined as human trafficking, forced labour, and practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and the sale or exploitation of children.

Researcher Kevin Bales said he hoped the index, the first annual report to monitor slavery globally, would raise public awareness as numbers were at an all-time high and it would increase pressure on governments to take more action.

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