First National Survey on Sex Trafficking of Women
Posted on: 19 October 2007
At least 76 women were trafficked into Ireland for the purposes of sexual exploitation between 2000-2006, according to a new report co-authored by Dr Gillian Wylie of the Irish School of Ecumenics, TCD and Dr Eilis Ward of NUI Galway The majority of these women were trafficked from Eastern Europe but women were also trafficked into the sex trade in Ireland from Africa, Asia and South America. It is believed that most of these women ended up in private brothels throughout the country.
Both authors have called for prioritisation of the needs of trafficked women in the recently published bill by the Government in relation to sex-trafficking.
“There should be no question any longer as to whether Ireland has a problem with sex trafficking of women,” commented Dr Gillian Wylie of the Irish School of Ecumenics, TCD. “The problem has been clearly signposted through this research and by findings from organisations working in the field”.
“We established through our survey and questionnaire a probable minimum number of 76,” commented co-author, Dr Eilis Ward of NUI Galway, “but in fact, we will never know the exact number being trafficked into Ireland because of the nature of the sex trade and the nature of the criminality involved in trafficking. We suggest that the research for statistics can now be sidelined in favour of the development of a coherent, human rights approach to this distressing problem. The government needs to act fast to ensure that the problem does not grow”.
The research by the two academics was carried out over a two year period and involved a survey of agencies and organisations working in areas of prostitution, violence against women and migration in Ireland. It is the first such research of its kind for Ireland.
The research identifies some patterns and trends for the sex-trafficking into Ireland and also identifies serious gaps in service provision and supports for those women who have been sex-trafficked. In particular, the lack of a legislative framework has created an ad hoc situation with no clear policy or guidelines as to what happens women who have been identified as sex-trafficked.
The research identifies, however, that good cooperation has developed among the state and non-state sectors but suggests that this may be confined to the Dublin area. Given that many of the women identified in the research ended up outside Dublin, this is a cause for concern. For instance, a woman who was found by Gardaí in a private brothel in Sligo and who was believed to have been trafficked was brought to Mountjoy jail. “This effectively criminalised her for an act in which she was an extremely vulnerable victim of a serious crime” commented Dr Ward.
– The research also found an additional 75 cases which are possible sex-trafficking cases but the absence of substantive information meant that they could not be included in the probable category
– The single biggest national grouping of women identified as probably sex-trafficked was women from Nigeria (19 women) and the second was Russian women (8)
– Where contact was made, the research revealed the use of force, coercion and deception as part of the transit journey to Ireland and evidence of extreme force and coercion was also found once the women came to Ireland.
– Of the 76 probable cases, 36 of those women disappeared from contact with agencies or individuals, 14 were repatriated to their home country and 12 remain in the Irish asylum system. Ten of them were granted either leave to remain in Ireland or refugee status.
– The research revealed a consensus among those interviewed that service provision to victims of sex-trafficking is very under-resourced and underfunded.
– The research also places the context of sex-trafficking as a new phenomena in Ireland at a time when the sex-trade is expanding and becoming more difficult to control and poses great difficulties for Garda surveillance.