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Ireland sends more Asian people to jail for growing cannabis than Irish people

A new report has found that Ireland may be sending victims of slavery to prison, rather than helping to free them.

Image: Garda Press Office

A NEW REPORT has found that Ireland may be sending victims of slavery to prison, rather than helping to free them.

The project found evidence that vulnerable people may have been trafficked into Ireland and forced to work in cannabis growhouses – some of whom then end up in the criminal justice system.

It also found that Ireland sends more people of Asian origin to jail for cannabis growing than Irish people.

Courts and criminal authorities are not taking into account that the people may be modern-day slaves, the report found.

“People have been found malnourished and terrified in houses locked from the outside, yet they were still treated as criminals and given heavy prison sentences,” said Virginija Petrauskaite of the Migrant Rights Centre, which carried out the study.

There has been a major increase in the amount of cannabis grown in Ireland in recent years, with a subsequent rise in garda crack-downs on the operations.

The study found that of the 50 people jailed for cannabis cultivating last year, 36 of them were of Asian origin.

It also found that Chinese and Vietnamese people who said they had been exploited or maltreated made up 75 per cent of people sent to prison for large-scale cannabis cultivation.

January 2011 – July 2013: Convictions for cannabis cultivation
  • Number of convicted Vietnamese nationals: 14
  • Number of convicted Chinese nationals: 11
  • Number of convicted Irish nationals: 18
  • Number of convicted other EU nationals: 8

Ireland recently brought in a law specifically to protect victims of human trafficking who have been forced to commit crimes, but experts say this law has not yet been applied.

Petrauskaite said it was a major problem that “even where clear indicators of human trafficking are present in cases before the courts, no consideration is being given the possibility that the person is a victim of trafficking”.

The researchers spoke to people who had been jailed for growing cannabis, as well as solicitors, court reporters, gardaí and Department of Justice Officials for the study.

Read: British officers will be looking out for potential slavery victims at airports >

Read: Wooden shoes, leather-belt beatings and hunger: Slavery, in their own words >

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