Independent Media Centre Ireland

Sex Trafficking- A Major Issue For Ireland

category national | rights, freedoms and repression | opinion/analysis author Thursday May 07, 2009 22:34author by Tara L - NA

The major problem with the sex- trafficking issue in Ireland is legislation

Sex Trafficking- a major issue for Ireland

A woman resides in a cold, lonely flat. Her body is bruised and broken. Men arrive each day with money in their pockets, in search of a good time and the woman is left a little more hollow each time. With nowhere to turn she sinks further and further into this world of exploitation and degradation.

We’ve all heard stories of this nature at one point or another, more likely in the voice of a distant woman in a third world Country. You may have shed a solitary tear or uttered a short prayer but did anyone reckon that voice might be calling from an area closer to home.

Research, released on the 16th of April shows high levels of trafficking in Ireland over the last two years. The report, Globalisation, Sex Trafficking and Prostitution- The experience of migrant women in Ireland, was commissioned by the Immigration Council of Ireland (ICI) and has identified over a hundred women and girls trafficked into or through this Country for the purpose of exploitation. The vast majority of these women were trafficked from African Countries and none knew they were being recruited as part of the sex industry. The Act to Prevent Trafficking movement noted at a recent meetings throughout Kildare that most were lured to the Country by a friend under the guise of an employment opportunity.

While the report highlights that 102 women and girls were identified by organisations such as Ruhama and the HSE the real figure is believed to be much greater. Due to the secretive nature of sex trafficking it is hard to locate these women.

Of course the trafficking phenomenon is not unique to Ireland, but one facet may be. Of these 102 women, only two have been offered protection by the state the report noted. Founder of ICI Sr. Stan said of the findings, ‘Central to our first response to the needs of trafficked women and girls and all migrant women involved in the sex industry must be caring for their health, providing safe accommodation and access to independent legal advice and residency permits, if required’. Sr. Stan’s words hold all too true for Ireland.

According to the Act to Prevent Trafficking movement, even if a woman is recovered the risk of being re- trafficked is enormous. This is substantially due to the fact that the ‘leave to remain on humanitarian grounds’ provision has been removed from the new Immigration bill. Meaning, that if a trafficked woman or girl proves to have no valuable information to facilitate investigations in the area of trafficking they will be sent home with a real chance of being trafficked again or surprisingly become traffickers themselves. Sister Mary O’Dea of APT says that the ‘majority of traffickers are women who have been trafficked in the past.’

The problem seems to lie in legislation. The Immigration, Residency and Protection Bill is currently going through the Oireacthas. In order to help women who have been trafficked the Irish Government should recognise trafficking victims as just that, victims. If they are to continue to be punished, this vicious circle can never change.

Considering the case of the Nigerian woman Edith Orumenes, that reached prominence in the media earlier this year, reveals another disturbing facet. She was sentenced after being found in Ireland without any papers. She claims to be a victim of trafficking, but since she had no identification, she was treated as a criminal. The problem seems to be that if she was pardoned on the basis that she ‘may’ have been trafficked a spurt of illegal immigration could ensue. This is a valid point but if this woman has been trafficked her trauma is only being prolonged.

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