Defining Trafficking/Denying Justice? Forced Labour in Ireland and the Consequences of Trafficking Discourse

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In 2008 Ireland enacted legislation to define and prosecute human trafficking. The overriding emphasis of the Human Trafficking (Criminal Law) Act is on trafficking as a crime against the state, with provisions to protect victims only vaguely articulated in a separate piece of legislation. The Irish approach thus remains far removed from the victim-centred human-rights-based approach advocated by local lobbyists and international reports, which argue for a shift away from pinpointing movement and coercion as integral to trafficking and focusing instead on exploitation as its essence. The rationale for this was that, while people’s movement might initially be deemed to be ‘smuggling’, their eventual exploitation could constitute ‘trafficking’. As this paper will show on the basis of current empirical research into trafficking for forced labour in Ireland, we would concur that exploitation should be understood as the essence of trafficking. Few cases ‘tick all the boxes’ of a rigid definition of trafficking, yet the exploitation of migrant workers is rife. Ironically the long-awaited enshrining of the crime of human trafficking in Irish law may have the undesirable consequence of drawing a line between the ‘deserving’ and the ‘undeserving’ exploited, thereby denying justice to many who migrate for work and find their rights and dignity violated in the process.

Source: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies,Volume 37, Issue 9, 2011

Author(s):Deirdre Coghlan and Gillian Wylie
Publisher:Taylor & Francis Online
Publication Date:04 Nov 2011
Geographic Focus:Ireland
URL:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1369183X.2011.623625
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