Fourfold increase in ‘extreme exploitation’ of migrant workers last year

Many work in private homes and the fishing industry, Dublin conference told

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

There was an almost fourfold increase in cases of “extreme exploitation’’ of migrant workers in Ireland last year, a Dublin conference was told on Wednesday.

Legal officer with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) Jane O’Connell said many of them were employed in domestic work and the fishing industry.

“Domestic work is generally in private homes, so it is very hidden and hard to access and identify victims,’’ she added.

Ms O’Connell was speaking at the Development & Services Anti-Trafficking (DASATT) conference in Trinity College.

There are an estimated 578,000 migrants in Ireland, with more than 90,000 becoming Irish citizens since 2011. Between 20,000 and 26,000 migrants, including children and families, are undocumented.

Am MRCI survey has found that 44 per cent receive less than the minimum wage.

Ms O’Connell said other sectors where migrant workers were exploited included massage parlours, car washing, hotels and guesthouses and agriculture.

She said there were serious concerns about “forced begging’’, particularly among the Roma population.

“That area definitely needs more attention,’’ she added.

She said the migrant workers came from Nigeria, Vietnam, Thailand, Serbia, Venezuela, India, Columbia and Egypt.

Ms O’Connell referred to the case of a Pakistani migrant, who had worked a seven-day week, with only Christmas Day off, for €50 weekly. He had been awarded €91,000 in compensation after lengthy court proceedings.

While he was still struggling with the trauma of what he had gone through, he was also strong and had supported others, she added.

Ms O’Connell said exploitation of migrant workers was happening all around people in the most day-to-day places.

Some of the victims of human trafficking are working in busy car washes in Dublin, she added.

She said in many parts of the country there was not a sufficient awareness of the issue, adding that MRCI was initiating a national campaign to engage with organisations to identify areas of exploitation.

They could then refer cases back to MRCI for an assessment.

Ms O’Connell said MRCI reported cases to the An Garda Síochána and also brought them to the attention of labour employment tribunals. It also had “naming and shaming’’ campaigns.

“Early identification of victims is absolutely vital,’’ she added.

She said MRCI’s main goals were the prevention of human trafficking and exploitation. It also operated a drop-in centre, she added.