Prostitution charity helped 304 women last year

Stock photo: PA

Robin Schiller

An Irish charity dedicated to helping women affected by prostitution provided help for 304 women from four different continents last year.

Ruhama, which supports sex workers, said two of the women were aged 18 when it began supporting them, after they had been smuggled into the country as children.

Trafficked women are most likely to come from Nigeria, with gangs targeting the Edo state in the African country, and traffickers are also routinely smuggling women from Brazil, Romania and Zimbabwe.

Ruhama said its records showed women from 12 other countries were victims of smuggling including Albania, Bulgaria, Bolivia, Portugal, Pakistan and six other African countries.

The charity said another 73 women from 18 countries were supported through its work last year, including from Ireland, Brazil, Romania, Nigeria, Spain, UK, Germany, Iraq, Lithuania, Russia, Bolivia, Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, China, Portugal and Uganda.

In its 2016 annual report, Ruhama outlined how it helped 304 women from 37 different nationalities, including 92 victims of sex trafficking.

Sarah Benson, Ruhama chief executive, said: "The bulk of prostitution in Ireland is run by organised crime gangs who profit from the sexual exploitation of women and girls, particularly in off-street locations.

"These unscrupulous individuals make money from human misery - moving often vulnerable migrant women in a co-ordinated fashion from brothel to brothel across Ireland, with a view to satisfying local sex buyers' demands."

Since March this year it has been illegal for men to buy sex. A woman can legally work as a prostitute if she is indoors and working independently.