Mohamed Younnis is from a small village in Pakistan. He is married with nine children; all now aged over 15 years. He has worked in different jobs and different countries in order to provide for his family. He worked as a chef in the army for many years, he opened up a small grocery shop in his local area and he also migrated to Dubai to work as a laborer. In 2002, Mr. Younnis was asked by his cousin to come to Ireland to work for him as a tandoori chef. Mohammed Younnis was told he would come to work under work permit conditions and that this would be renewed for the duration of his time in Ireland. He came to work in Ireland in 2002 so that he could earn money and send remittances back to his family.
Mohammed became trapped in in modern day slavery. Modern-day slavery is forced labor; a severe form of exploitation involving deception and coercion of workers by unscrupulous employers. It is a growing problem in Ireland and globally. Over the last six years the Migrant Rights Center Ireland (MRCI) has dealt with some 180 cases – which is only the tip of the iceberg. Forced labor occurs mainly in unregulated low-paid employment such as catering, domestic work, care, construction, agricultural and entertainment sectors.
Mohammed Younis’s employer failed to renew his permit which left him undocumented in Ireland. For many years he was paid 55 cents per hour, received no day off, no holidays, his passport was withheld, and he was threatened by his employer. Any money that he earned he sent back to his family. He was merely existing and not living. He felt many times that he was living in “a deep black hole” with no way out of the situation. Other workers and the MRCI helped Mohammed Younis leave his employment and assisted him in taking a case for non-payment of his full wages to the employment courts. He was awarded €92,000 by the Labor Court in compensation for years of severe exploitation.
Mohammed did not yet receive a penny of this. His ex-employer took the Labor Court to the High Court who ruled that the employer did not have to pay Mohammed as an undocumented worker cannot seek redress under labor law as the employment contract cannot be recognized. Mohammed is appealing this ruling to the Supreme Court and will continue to seek justice to secure the wages and other payments that are owed to him.
Mohammed Younis is one of the key leaders who worked on the Forced Labor Action Campaign with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland to criminalize modern day slavery in Ireland. He took on this role so that other workers would not have to suffer like he did. Due to the tireless work of Mohammed and other leaders a law will be brought in to make modern day slavery a crime in April of this year.
Columban Fr. Bobby Gilmore lives and works in Ireland.