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Country in grip of ‘huge prostitution trafficking'
Irish Examiner 13/09/2007

by Evelyn Ring

IRELAND is firmly in the grip of an organised international trade of women being trafficked into the country for prostitution, a support group for sexually exploited women has warned.

Ruhama said it knew about 216 women who had been brought to Ireland for prostitution over the past seven years. It was also aware that at least 16 women had been trafficked into the country over the past eight months.

Ruhama spokeswoman Gerardine Rowley said the support group was only coming into contact with a fraction of the women being brought into the country, many of whom had endured severe sexual violence before being put into prostitution.

Of the 132 women that Ruhama has come in contact with since 2000, 73% are from eastern Europe, 21% from Africa, 4% from South America and 2% from Asia .

Ms Rowley said accessing women in prostitution had become increasingly challenging for Ruhama because of the rapidly changing manner in which prostitution was conducted. The organisation, which released its biennial report for 2005-2006 yesterday, warned that prostitution was more controlled by criminals with an increasing number of women operating out of private apartments, houses, massage parlours and escort agencies.

Ms Rowley pointed out that all of the women who contacted Ruhama this year were referred by other agencies. “We feel that these are the lucky women because some other service picked them up,” she said.

Ruhama, who made contact with 89 women involved in street prostitution last year, also found it had fewer opportunities to meet this group, mostly drug users. The increasing use of mobile phones meant the women are spending less time standing on the streets.

Ms Rowley said the gardaí must establish a national vice-squad and the Government must put effective legislation in place to protect victims and deal with trafficking.

Ms Rowley said there had been a marked increase in the number of women making contact with their trafficking service who were involved in prostitution outside Dublin .

She pointed out that all of the women who made contact with Ruhama so far this year were involved in prostitution outside of the capital.

In 2005, 25% of the 23 women who made contact with the organisation for the first time were operating outside of Dublin , with the proportion increasing to 40% of the 18 women who made initial contact last year. “And we know that prostitution is operating in rural areas; it's not just an urban issue,” she said.

Ms Rowley said the law on trafficking was inadequate because it only dealt with illegal immigration and smuggling.

And, she said, the Garda vice squad that was Dublin-based had its staff cut by 50% over the past few years.

“Just as we have a Garda National Drug Squad, we need to have a Garda National Vice Squad,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said it was intended to have legislation dealing with trafficking enacted before the end of the year.