Date Released: 23 April 2014
A decision is expected on Wednesday (23rd April) in a case taken against the State by a Chinese man imprisoned since November 2012, when he was arrested for the alleged possession of cannabis plants. The State is accused of ignoring signs of human trafficking and wrongfully imprisoning the man, prosecuting and punishing him for acts he was compelled to commit.
The decision could have serious repercussions for the State and for all potential victims of trafficking for forced labour currently being held in Irish jails.
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has long maintained that the State is failing to properly investigate cases of trafficking for forced labour, and last month released a report revealing that Ireland is likely to be criminalising victims of trafficking for forced labour.
“This High Court case has underlined the findings of our report,” said Pablo Rojas Coppari, MRCI Policy & Research Officer, speaking in advance of the judgment. “As more and more the authorities need to ensure that all potential victims found during raids are expertly assessed for signs of trafficking; it is imperative that we ensure the State is not acting in breach of its international obligations by prosecuting and punishing victims for acts they were compelled to commit.”
Lawyers acting for the accused have submitted that “the clear evidence is that this Chinese farm hand was found locked into a building, living in squalor. He spoke no English and was confused about his location. He had never received any money. He was not in possession of his travel documents. These are internationally-agreed indicators of trafficking in human beings, but instead of being assessed and protected, a decision was made by the DPP to prosecute and punish him.
Rojas Coppari concluded, "This judgment could be a landmark one. This man could be freed after being imprisoned in Ireland since 2012. It could also have implications for a number of other potential victims in Irish jails: if indicators of trafficking were ignored in their cases, they too could be released. Even if this man's case is not successful, however, it has again raised the issue of trafficking for criminal exploitation and has highlighted serious gaps in our victim protection policies and procedures."