By Ann Marie Foley - 03 November, 2016
Ruhama has expressed disappointment at the prosecution of four young women who are possibly victims of trafficking.
“We are very disappointed and concerned by reports of four vulnerable women being prosecuted for brothel keeping when Gardaí suspect them as potentially trafficked or controlled by criminal gangs,” stated the NGO, which supports women affected by prostitution and sex trafficking.
“There needs to be a consistent approach that supports those in prostitution and where we see pimps and other exploiters being prosecuted, not the women,” Ruhama said.
At a sitting of Galway District Court on Monday (31 October), four women, aged 21, 22, 23 and 30, pleaded guilty to operating a brothel. However, the Irish Times reported that Gardaí believe that the four Romanian women who were arrested on Saturday night were trafficked into Ireland by a criminal gang of Dublin or Belfast-based pimps to work in brothels across the country.
The women claimed they were acting alone to raise money for their impoverished families in Romania. The Garda giving evidence expressed an opinion that the women would not have been able to organise travel around the country, or accommodation, themselves. He said that he offered to put them in touch with organisations that could help them but they insisted they were not trafficked.
Judge Gerard Furlong accepted that the women had not set up the brothel themselves and that another party was involved who had not come before the courts. Judge Furlong convicted and fined each of the women €200, and requested that the Gardaí put them in contact with organisations that would help them.
Just last week Ruhama had welcomed the arrest of a 38-year-old man who was charged under human trafficking legislation with bringing a woman to Ireland to work in the illicit vice trade.
The man was arrested on Saturday (29 October) after travelling from Poland. He was the second person to be arrested after a four-year investigation. The other man, also aged in his 30s, was charged before a sitting of Athlone District Court under Human Trafficking legislation on the 26 October 2016.
In a statement on 29 October Ruhama welcomed the arrests:
“There have been very few prosecutions for human trafficking in Ireland to date,” said Sarah Benson, CEO, Ruhama. “Such action sends an important message to perpetrators, as well as to their victims that this heinous crime will not be tolerated.”
She said that intensive efforts by an Garda Síochána are necessary in building the very complex cases against traffickers, so it is essential that Gardaí are given the required resources to carry out comprehensive investigations.
For example, the two men who were before the courts were arrested after an investigation which began in February 2012 and involved several Garda operations, bureaus, and regional units, which had the assistance of the Polish National Trafficking Unit, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Europol and Interpol.
Women caught up in the trafficking net were helped by Ruhama and the HSE.
“We need to see more traffickers held to account to discourage their trade in Ireland which is commonly regarded by criminals internationally as ‘low risk high gain’ crime. In Ruhama we see the human face of sex trafficking and respond every day to the complex needs of women who have fallen victim to these ruthless criminals,” said Sarah Benson.
She welcomed the re-introduction of the Sexual Offences Bill 2015 to the Dáil by Tánaiste Francis Fitzgerald soon. It contains measures to criminalise the purchase of sex. She said it will send the message that there is no human right to buy sex but there is a human right not to be bought.