Saturday, December 27, 2008

Trafficked women need help not jail

Concerns have been raised about the jailing of a victim of human trafficking for the Christmas period.

A 22 year old Nigerian appeared at Castlebar District Court for not having correct documentation and passport. Her solicitor told the court that documents had been removed from her on arrival in Ireland and she had been kept in a house in Castlebar.

Ruhama, a group which assists women in prostitution, raised concerns about the detention.

“We are concerned that a woman who has been identified as a possible victim of human trafficking is continued to be incarcerated by the State. It must be understood that the fact that some women will not have legal documentation is due to the very fact that they are victims of trafficking,” said Gerardine Rowley, Information and PR Officer, Ruhama.

The organization has called on the Government to follow the recommendations of the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking and introduce a non-punishment provision within the Immigration, Residency and Protection Bill which is currently going through the houses of the Oireachtas.

This provision would excuse the victims of trafficking from criminal liability for involvement in unlawful activities being committed as a direct consequence of their situation as trafficked persons.

“We have signed the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking but we haven’t ratified it yet. But that convention does talk of a non-punishment provision in legislation and so far in Ireland we have not decided to take that on board in our legislation.

"We have followed other elements of the convention but there still is an opportunity to bring it in. We feel we now need to put this in place and stop the further trauma of people who are already traumatised,” Geraldine Rowley told ciNews.

Independent NUI Senator Rónán Mullen spoke on the issue in the Seanad in February. He said that victims of trafficking form a special category of persons because they often cannot speak our language and they may have been physically or mentally assaulted and have no contacts in Ireland who can help them.

“Effectively people in this position are in a form of modern slavery,” he said and added that legislation should “set out specifically the protections and supports that will be available to them.”

Ruhama offered services to 44 victims of trafficking during 2007, some 33 of these cases were new referrals - a substantial increase in referrals.

After Ruhama carried out assessments on the 33 new cases, one was deemed smuggled but at high risk of being trafficked and five others were trafficked into countries outside of Ireland but escaped here for help.

The remaining 27 cases were identified as trafficked into Ireland for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The women came from Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya, Burundi, Malawi, Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Thailand, Brazil, Romania, and Lithuania.

18 of the 27 victims of trafficking were located outside of Dublin in locations such as Kilkenny, Waterford, Sligo, Athlone, Dundalk, Drogheda, Monaghan and Donegal.

Most of the trafficked women assisted by Ruhama were aged between 20 and 30 years, however three females were minors.

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(Source: CIN)