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Gardaí attempt to tackle 'highest concentration of sex workers' in north Dublin suburb

The area has been pinpointed by gardaí as an area of concern.

Image: Shutterstock/Dmitri Ma

GARDAÍ IN NORTH Dublin are tackling what they believe is the highest concentration of sex workers in Europe operating out of half a dozen apartment blocks in Santry. 

Officers believe a significant number of the sex workers in the country are based in the area, which is located a short drive from Dublin Airport. 

Several well-informed sources have told TheJournal.ie that the area has “one of the highest, if not the highest” concentration of illegal sex workers operating in Ireland.  This is due to the fact that the women are all situated in apartments either next to each other or in a complex 100 feet away.

While the number is relatively small – a check on a well-known sex work website found 55 people were operating out of that area – it is the concentration of sex workers which is troubling officers and also locals.

A number of the workers operating out of the apartment blocks have been trafficked, gardaí believe.

The law states while sex workers will not be prosecuted, it is the organised element which they are clamping down on. For example, if two sex workers are operating out of the same apartment, gardaí could arrest them for operating a brothel.  

Investigations by gardaí have indicated that while many sex workers operate in urban areas, a lot of trafficked women are being moved around rural regions on a regular basis in a bid to stay ahead of officers. This area in Santry has been pinpointed by gardaí as an area of particular concern for potential trafficking. 

The Immigrant Council of Ireland along with prostitution support group Ruhama estimate that there are between 800-1000 women available to buy for sex nationwide at any one time. The biggest change in recent years, according to Ruhama CEO Sarah Benson, is that the women are now being brought in from Eastern European countries and sub-Saharan Africa.

Gardaí understand that the sex business operating from these apartment blocks is being conducted by a Lithuanian gang, led by a man who has zero criminal convictions and is someone who hadn’t come to the gardaí’s attention prior to their investigations into the brothels.

Raids 

Gardaí launched a crackdown on brothels in the south Dublin area and raided a number of suspected brothels in the last four weeks.

In the middle of July, officers attached to stations in Dublin Metropolitan Region East raided a number of apartments in the Beacon South Quarter complex of Sandyford. 

They forced their way into several apartments and conducted searches. It is understood they seized a number of electronic devices.

Gardaí had been working on intelligence that a number of women based in the apartment complex were trafficked and were being forced into prostitution by a Lithuanian-based gang.

Inquiries were also made by officers into a number of other apartment complexes in the area. However, no raids took place at these locations.

Women understood to be from Moldova, Romania and Brazil were working in these apartments, it is understood.  Gardaí have also been carrying out intelligence-led operations in relation to other areas they suspect to be brothels.

In 2017, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act 2015 passed through the Oireachtas meaning the buyers of sex would now be criminalised.

Ruhama has long advocated for legislation to focus on the demand of sex buyers as a key measure to curb expansion of the exploitative sex trade here.

The organisation has also advocated for many years for the repealing of the offence for soliciting for prostitution to give the clear social message that no person should be criminalised for their own exploitation.

However, the Sex Workers Association of Ireland (SWAI) has argued strongly that the changes mean that women in the industry are now in increased danger due to the new laws.

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