Raids welcomed by anti-trafficking campaigns
Fourteen brothels were raided in Cork city on Tuesday as a result of a national operation to combat prostitution and the illegal trafficking of women. Detectives in Cork spoke to 22 women and three men who were found on premises around the city which were believed to be used for prostitution. No arrests have been made but a number of the women attended Garda stations to make statements on a voluntary basis.
Among the premises visited by detectives were apartments in complexes at Carroll’s Quay, Pope's Quay and South Terrace. They also raided individual apartments on Oliver Plunkett St, Washington St, South Main St, Rutland St, Lower John St and Shandon St.
The women are thought to be from Asia and countries in Eastern Europe including Romania and Hungary.
Detective Superintendent John Healy at Anglesea St Garda Station said, "The statements by the women which were given at stations around the city will contribute to the ongoing operation and to intelligence."
Mary Crilly, Director of the Sexual Violence Centre (SVC) in Cork told the Cork Independent,
"I welcome the raids. We need to end the demand for prostitution, as long as there are men who are paying for sex there will be a demand. Prostitution isn't about sex, it's about money and exploitation."
According to SVC, many of the women who are brought to Ireland to be sold for sex are from Africa and Eastern Europe.
"They are promised better lives in Ireland. The men that bring them here may not be necessarily big men, many of them come across as friendly and charming. There is always hope in people's hearts," she explained.
The Director said that only a handful of sex trafficking victims are able to make it to their centre in Cork.
"They are watched all the time and are on call 24 hours a day. A lot of the time, if these women are not consensual, they are drugged."
SVC is linked to the 'Turn Off The Red Light' campaign in Ireland. The campaign's aim is end sex trafficking and prostitution in Ireland by criminalising the purchase of sex.
A counter campaign known as 'Turn Off The Blue Light' argues that the purchase of sex should not be criminalised. That campaign also lobbies for health, safety, human, civil and labour rights of sex workers.
Cork-based charity Cois Tine, based on Pope's Quay near many of the raided premises, provides outreach services to African migrants living in Cork.
Researcher at Cois Tine and author of a new book on trafficking, David Lohan said, “these raids, once again, confirm the presence of human trafficking in Ireland and it's close relationship to the prostitution sector. Raids on brothels are an absolute necessity for locating victims trafficked into forced commercial sexual exploitation.”
Three people were arrested nationwide during the raids, a man aged in his 40s and a female in her 20s were detained at the time of writing in Dundrum Garda Station while a female aged in her 20s was detained at Store Street Garda Station.
The Garda operation, which involved over 200 Gardaí, was led by members of the Organised Crime Unit based at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation supported by officers from all Garda Regions.
During the investigation to date, it has been established that prostitution is organised on a cross-border basis and today’s joint operation was specifically aimed at individuals and groups intent on making profits from vulnerable members of society across the island.
Specific training has been provided to Gardaí investigating this type of crime and they continue to liaise closely with various support groups working in this area.
Your views on this are in INDOpinion