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'Traffickers operate only to make money from human misery'

The Justice Minister at a garda conference today quoted victims of sex trafficking who had spoken about their experience with law enforcement in Ireland.

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MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Frances Fitzgerald has spoken of her department’s commitment to ending human trafficking in Ireland, calling on gardaí to do everything they can to combat the crime and protect victims.

In a speech today at a garda conference in Templemore, she described human trafficking as “an appalling crime, a serious abuse of human rights and an affront to the dignity of the human person”.

Her department is currently working on an EU funded project that will involve a campaign aimed at men and boys, which demonstrates the impact of human trafficking.

‘They were kind to me’

Fitzgerald quoted recent research involving victims of trafficking in Ireland and their experiences with law enforcement here. They said:

Even though I was arrested by the gardaí, they were kind to me and said they could help. I could not tell them what had happened but one … garda, .. was very nice to me, and … called Ruhama.
The gardaí were kind even though at first they thought I was guilty of trafficking. They offered me food and said I could have a shower. They offered to buy me socks as I had none and it was cold and said that I could use the ladies loo not the one in the cell. You know humanity… humanity, is very important.

However she noted that there “remain areas for improvement”, with some women speaking about the difficulty of undergoing numerous interviews and the feeling of not being believed. One woman said:

If someone has had a bad experience of the gardaí, asking you questions, not believing you then other women will hear that and that will stop them looking for help. And if they have good experience like the woman said of the …..garda it will be the other way.

Almost 4,000 gardaí have now received training in the indicators of human trafficking which the minister said is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the authorities to fight against the crime.

They can not do it all alone, however, she added. The minister said she will soon be bringing forward a new Sexual Offences Bill which will include provision to combat the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and child pornography.

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A difficult crime to detect

In 2013, provisional figures indicate that 44 trafficking victims were either reported to or detected by gardaí.

Though the numbers are low, Fitzgerald said that the pattern of exploitation in Ireland is similar to that in the rest of Europe and there are more out there

It is women and girls who are being trafficked and being sexually exploited who make up the significant majority of victims here. As I have already said, these figures are no doubt an underestimate; trafficking is a difficult crime to detect.
If the demand for the services of victims can be reduced, and hopefully eliminated, the business model of traffickers can be dismantled. And be under no illusion, for them this is a business; traffickers operate only to make money from human misery. And those who purchase the services of these victims fuel this evil trade; they too bear the responsibility for the lives stolen by trafficking.

Her comments today were welcomed by the Immigrant Council of Ireland, with chief executive Denise Chartlon saying they show she is “actively considering measures to cut demand for prostitution and trafficking”.

Read: Twenty trafficking victims rescued and three men arrested>

Read: Pimps ‘taking advantage’ of delay in new prostitution law>

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