Trafficking Bill to tackle forced begging and domestic servitude
Almost 180 cases in the past six years but State has not yet prosecuted anyone, says Fianna Fail
Introducing the legislation Minister for Justice Alan Shatter described trafficking in human beings as an “an appalling crime. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times
Legislation which will criminalise forced labour and end “modern slavery” in Ireland, has been passed in the Dáil.
The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) (Amendment) Bill 2013 has already been passed by the Seanad.
The Bill transfers an EU directive on trafficking into Irish law.
Introducing the legislation, Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said “we must use all the tools and resources at our disposal to prevent and combat human trafficking, prosecute the perpetrators and protect its victims”.
He described trafficking in human beings as an “an appalling crime, a serious abuse of human rights and an affront to the dignity of the human person”.
Mr Shatter said: “It should never be tolerated.”
The Bill deals primarily with trafficking for labour exploitation including forced begging or trafficking for criminal activity and defines forced labour in line with the definition of the International Labour Organisation, including “all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the person has not offered himself voluntarily”.
The organisation also notes the levels of exploitation including coercion, threats, abduction, force, deception, fraud, abuse of authority, and taking advantage of vulnerability, which the Minister said were all addressed in the Bill.
Mr Shatter said the legislation was not simply about ensuring compliance with Ireland’s international obligations in dealing with trafficking. Ireland had “a compelling moral duty to protect vulnerable persons from that crime and ensure a hostile environment for those who would exploit the weak and vulnerable for profit and personal gain”.
Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Niall Collins said the Migrant Rights Centre has dealt with more than 180 cases in the past six years and describes it as a growing problem in Ireland. “The State, however, has yet to prosecute and convict any trafficking offender, as defined by international standards, on foot of the 2008 anti-trafficking law”.
Mr Collins highlighted EU reports showing 23,632 people victims of trafficking between 2008 and 2010, one quarter of them for labour exploitation. “In Ireland 11 cases of labour trafficking were reported to the authorities in 2011,” he said.
A 2010 UN report showed 79 per cent of victims worldwide were subject to sexual exploitation, 18 per cent to forced labour and 3 per cent to other forms of exploitation. Mr Collins said of trafficking in Ireland that “it is very likely that a majority of trafficking cases will not come to the attention of the authorities” and it showed the need for a well-resourced Garda force.
Sinn Féin justice spokesman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn commended the Minister for introducing the Bill but described as a shortcoming the failure to outline procedures for victims with special needs including trauma from physical, mental and sexual abuse.
He also urged the Minister to introduce measures to combat “secondary victimisation, by which people who are trafficked are forced to relive their ordeals by repeatedly giving accounts of their experiences”.
Independent TD Finian McGrath said it was important to include in the debate the broader issue of “human rights and racism in society. We must all be vigilant against racism”.
He said it was important for the Department of Justice to constantly monitor this issue “because racist views have been emerging again in society. In a recent poll, 20 per cent of people expressed racist views which concerns me.”
He said: “When matters get bad in an economy, people blame immigrants for issues that have absolutely nothing to do with him.”
Labour TD Robert Dowds highlighted a case of modern slavery in his Dublin Mid-West constituency. It involved a Pakistani National working in an Indian takeaway in Clondalkin.
He had originally come to Ireland on a work permit. After it lapsed he worked for 55c an hour. “Although the rights commissioner awarded the man in question €92,000, the High Court felt obliged to overturn this decision on 31 August last year. As a result the exploiter walked free. That is an example of why the legislation is so necessary.”
Mr Dowds said he hoped the legislation would help addressing the problem of human trafficking and forced labour “especially in the areas of sexual exploitation and domestic servitude, which are the main problems in Ireland”.
Labour Dublin North-Central TD Aodhán Ó Riordáin said “today we are effectively criminalising slavery in Ireland, by finally defining forced labour and re-enforcing it as a specific criminal offence”.
He praised the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland for its work and said “we should focus on certain matters for victims of forced labour”.
He said there could be an issue about lack of support being provided to victims, once a criminal prosecution had taken place and he called on the Minister to address this issue.