But the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI) said it referred only 26 people to make complaints to gardai because the law was so weak they “knew they were not going to be identified as a victim of forced labour”.
The MRCI uses international criteria and definitions to determine if they feel a person has been subjected to trafficking or forced labour, but it’s director Siobhan O’Donoghue said Irish law works to differing standards in its definitions.
“There has been no prosecutions for trafficking for forced labour since the legislation was introduced in 2008,” Ms O'Donoghue told Independent.ie today.
“The law in Ireland on forced labour is weak, and the person that by international standards we identified as being in forced labour for seven years has opted to chose remedy through employment law and is now taking their former employer to court for non-payment of wages,” she added.
"The actual definition of forced labour is just too vague so it meant that when it came to formulating a case the definition just wasn't strong enough, but two months ago the law was strengthened and we will now be supporting people to take cases of forced labour and hopefully there will be prosecutions,” in the future, she added.
The MRCI has now called on changes to the prosecution system in relation to forced labour so that victims can have a period of recovery time before being interviewed for information that would form part of a legal case.
“Very often they are not given a chance to reflect or recover for long enough to engage in an investigation. Sometimes they can be interviewed far too quickly. Maybe the information they give just after leaving a situation of forced labour is going the be very different to what they are going to be saying if they had a chance to recover, and this is something that we feel really strongly about,” Ms O’Donoghue explained.
She said there needs to be a reflection or recovery period, and that this has been identified by the Council of Europe as essential for successful prosecutions.
She also called on victims to be given secure accommodation away from the prosecution process to take pressure of people who were trafficked or in forced labour.
“The protection of the victim needs to be separate from the investigation process, otherwise there might be a ‘you play ball with us and we’ll play ball with you’ pressure on a person who has been traumatised and is vulnerable,” said Ms O’Donoghue.
The MRCI is bringing experts from all around Europe and Ireland to discuss issues on the subject of trafficking and forced labour next week, it said.