A major crackdown on human trafficking in Ireland has resulted in the rescue of 38 foreign nationals by gardaí over the past year, including 25 women who have been coerced into sexual exploitation.
specialist detectives are investigating those behind a growing number of illegal immigrants from South America, including Brazil, who are forced into the sex industry here.
Gardaí is also investigating a number of cannabis factories that have sprung up across the country, where most Eastern Europeans have been trafficked.
Assistant Commissioner John O’Driscoll, who heads the Organized Crime and Serious Crime Directorate, called the problem “extremely serious because it involves vulnerable victims.”
“For someone who becomes a victim of human trafficking, it is a life changing situation.
“It can lead to the deaths of people abused by trafficking,” he said.
His team investigated suspicions of trafficking in the farm business where Romanian nationals smuggled people into Ireland to work on farms.
AC O’Driscoll said there have also been, historically, trafficking issues related to the circus industry, with workers and performers being exploited.
Before the start of the pandemic, Gardai was focused on operating the car wash industry on both sides of the border, which he said was “important as we have carried out a number of separate surveys ”.
“For all of these examples, the signs will indicate that a person is deprived of the ability to leave the environment in which they find themselves; their passports could be taken away, they could be treated with the consequences of being reported to immigration authorities, ”he said.
Thousands of vulnerable men and women want to make Ireland their home, but, said AC O’Driscoll, many are made to feel a false sense of security before they travel here.
“A person can search and pay to enter a country illegally with the intention of living their life without having anything to do with the person who smuggled them.
“But in some cases, the people who claim to have smuggled it intend to traffic the person.”
He describes human traffickers as “absolutely reckless in terms of the welfare of the victims”.
“We see the consequences, especially women. When you have someone barely older than a child who thinks they are going to work in a cafe and have so-called clients within 24 hours whose demands they have to meet and where violence could be involved . It is difficult to understand how people can even recover from this kind of experience.
Although human trafficking is not exclusive to foreign nationals, AC O’Driscoll said his experience shows that the majority of victims in this country belong to these groups.
In addition, many of these victims have been trafficked by persons of their own nationality.
“First the foreign nationals settle, then a certain number of them can engage in the trafficking of foreign nationals.
“Our surveys show that many come from South America and Africa.
“The victims may very well have paid money to have someone facilitate this, and then when they arrive, they find they are beholden to the group that facilitated their entry.
“They may find out within hours of arriving that they are being asked to engage in sexual activity.”
In June, two Nigerian women who ran a prostitution ring from a base in Mullingar were convicted of human trafficking offenses in what would be the first such conviction in Ireland. Alicia Edosa (44) and Edith Enogaghase (31) were each convicted of two counts of trafficking in women in Ireland between September 2016 and June 2018, contrary to the 2008 Criminal Law (Trafficking in Persons Act) human beings) following a six-week trial in Mullingar. Circuit Criminal Court.
The jury of 10 men and two women found Edosa not guilty of two other counts of human trafficking.
They will be sentenced later this year.
“This case is important and that we are following closely. The money laundering aspect is very important because trafficking is about money. The reason people are trafficked is to line the pockets of those who exploit them, ”he said.
The trial heard testimony from four women who said they were forced into prostitution in Ireland after undergoing a voodoo ceremony in their native Nigeria in what the prosecution called a “tragic” case of exploitation.
AC O’Driscoll said: “Often, women were also threatened in the field of voodoo magic.
“They would have had a real fear of being under some sort of spell.”
In this case, the victims provided dramatic evidence of long and arduous journeys from their home countries via North Africa and southern Europe before arriving in Ireland.
A witness testified that she was trafficked to Ireland on the promise of earning up to € 3,500 per month working as a saleswoman, but was forced into prostitution within days of arriving in Ireland , which had been described to him as “the land of milk and honey”.
AC O’Driscoll said: “You can also see that as the land border with Northern Ireland is unmonitored from an immigration point of view, it is relatively easy to move to another jurisdiction. . ”
He said his team is now actively focusing on human trafficking involving organized prostitution, which he said is reflected in the fact “that we have strengthened our capacities and organized a particular unit last year”.
The Organized Prostitution Investigation Unit was established to monitor all aspects of organized crime in the sex trade, including the enforcement of legislation criminalizing the purchase of sexual services.
Detectives hope the new unit will protect vulnerable people, including victims of human trafficking involved in prostitution in the country.
“This places an important obligation on the state to find the victims in the first place,” said AC O’Driscoll.
“Human trafficking is a crime, sometimes hidden in plain sight, but it is something we must remain focused on.”