Labour Party TD for Dublin North Central Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has said that addressing the pressing issue of forced labour in this country must be a priority for the Government. Deputy Ó Ríordáin was speaking after representatives from the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) briefed Oireachtas members in Leinster House this afternoon.
Deputy Ó Ríordáin stated: “I really believe that this issue must be tackled head on by the Coalition and it must be tackled urgently. Unfortunately, over the past number of years a vacuum has developed in our judicial system and enforcing the laws has become quite difficult because there is no clear law to deal with the problem of forced labour in Ireland.
“It was quite harrowing this afternoon to listen to some of the victims of forced labour explaining what they were subjected to as migrant workers. These people were promised a better life and a chance of a fresh start, only to see these prospects shattered through deceit. In several instances, victims were forced to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week with no opportunity to even leave their place of work. In one case which we heard today, the only day off which was provided by the employer was Christmas Day. This is a disgrace and it is grossly inhumane to treat anyone in this fashion.
“I would call on the Minister for Justice to urgently address this issue and to bring forward legislation similar to what has been enacted recently in the United Kingdom and I will be making enquiries to the Department of Justice as to when this can be done. Unfortunately, the problems of forced labour are compounded in times of economic turmoil so I believe it’s imperative that we act sooner rather than later.
“Finally, I believe the issue of forced labour is one which can be tackled given the level of cross party support involved. It was very heartening to see representatives of the Government and Opposition at today’s briefing and it is crucial now that we harness that support in order to eradicate forced labour in this country.”