14 July 2005 Edition

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Mary Lou voices concern over human trafficking

Mary Lou McDonald MEP for Dublin

Mary Lou McDonald MEP for Dublin

Concern has increased this week about links between the sex industry in Ireland and human trafficking. Voluntary organisation Ruhama, which offers support to prostitutes in Ireland, said this week that it met or supported 91 women trafficked into the country to work in the sex industry. Sinn Féin MEP for Dublin Mary Lou McDonald has added her voice to the call for greater resources to tackle the problem.

Human trafficking has become one of the hallmarks of continuing global injustice. Vulnerable people, usually women and children, are trafficked from poorer parts of the world such as Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America to service a demand in Western Europe and North America.

People smuggling and people trafficking are related but different types of criminal activity. While smuggling of people essentially involves payments to criminal gangs in order to travel to a country one cannot legally enter, the trafficking of people is more sinister. This involves unknowing and/or unwilling victims destined to be exploited in conditions of enforced servitude. Exploitation often takes the form of prostitution, sexual exploitation in the pornography or lapdancing industries, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of body organs.

The sex industry in Ireland has been directly linked with human trafficking. While some middle-class commentators have propagated a rose-tinted view of prostitution as a private matter between consenting adults, the reality is much uglier.

In recent years Ireland has seen a huge increase in all forms of immigration, legal and illegal. The potential for trafficking women for the puposes of prostitution has grown considerably. Lapdancing clubs operating behind a veil of legality are are often staffed by people from poorer counties.The most serious accusation levelled at lapdancing clubs is that prostitituion takes place on the premises and that it involves people who are victims of the human trafficking trade.

Despite raids, a level of media attention and some high-profile court cases lapdance clubs have proliferated hugely in the 26 Counties in recent years.

Ruhama have called for the closure of such clubs because of signs that women are being trafficked into Ireland to work in the sex industry.

Mary Lou McDonald said that the government "must take this latest information very seriously. If vulnerable people are being coerced into the sex industry in this state it must be stopped. More resources should be devoted to investigating the links between criminal gangs and the type oif actvity higlighted by Ruhama. Any establishment found to be linked to such criminality should be closed down immediately and the proprietrs prosecuted."

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